Fort Worth getting healthier thanks to Blue Zone Project

One of the most profound things a city can do to promote economic vitality is to focus on community wellbeing. A healthy city is a prosperous city.

The job goes well beyond the walls of the town hall and requires individuals and organizations to get involved in a community. Fort Worth did this in a way that only a city as big as ours can: through collaboration.

Every corner of our community has contributed to a remarkable improvement in the general well-being of residents in recent years. Better still, Fort Worth is seeing exceptional gains reported in 2018 – despite a nationwide pandemic and ongoing challenges.

We know there is no finish line in this race. There will always be underserved populations that need to be protected, infrastructure improved, and businesses to be supported. The work must and will continue, but let’s celebrate the victories for a moment.

In 2014, the Gallup Well-Being Index ranked Fort Worth 185th out of 190 in a ranking of major subway areas. It wasn’t our proudest moment, but when things get tough, Texans head out. Fort Worth made significant investments in community health and wellbeing initiatives, including the launch of the Blue Zones project.

The Blue Zones project was brought to Fort Worth by Texas Health Resources and supported by the Fort Worth City and Chamber of Commerce. It introduced best practices from areas of the world where people live longest and least often suffer from chronic diseases. The goal: to make healthy decisions easier, across the city.

Blue Zones with workplaces, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and denominations. To date, the company has worked with more than 500 organizations. It also helped city guides implement policy changes to improve access to healthy food, reduce tobacco use, and support our active transportation plan – a master plan for creating a more walkable, drivable community.

This hard work has paid off in great measure. In 2018, Fort Worth was named the largest certified Blue Zones community in the country, through a process that precisely measured improvements in health and wellbeing. That same year, the Fort Worth Well-Being Index jumped nearly four points, and the city’s national ranking rose from 185 to 31st.

But is it sustainable? If we remain committed to the fight, the answer seems to be yes.

In 2020, Fort Worth’s scores continued to improve in another Gallup poll. Overall, the city’s obesity rate has remained constant since 2014, although the rate has increased nationally. Smoking decreased by 23% and the number of people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol continued to decrease. Fort Worth also saw a 15% increase in exercise and an increase in the number of people who said they bike or walk for daily activities.

The Blue Zones Project, led by Texas Health Resources, continues to work with businesses, grocers, faith communities, and individuals with an emphasis on making healthy options more accessible and affordable for the most vulnerable. These efforts include healthy pantries in neighborhood schools and programs like Double Up Food Bucks, which give state food aid program participants the opportunity to put more fresh produce on the table.

This city has proven ready to take on challenges that others never try to overcome. We have the will and collective strength to fulfill our ultimate mission: to make this city the healthiest in the nation.

Let’s keep it up, Fort Worth.

Betsy Price is the Mayor of Fort Worth. Barclay Berdan is the executive director of Texas Health Resources.

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