With the common goal of making the healthy choice the easy choice in the Umpqua region, residents and representatives of worksites, grocery stores, restaurants, schools and faith-based organizations will be working together on the Blue Zones Project.

The three-year health and well being initiative is just beginning.

This coming week, representatives of Blue Zones Project Oregon will come to Roseburg to hear from local members of the public about the area’s current strengths and its needs to help residents live healthier, longer and more balanced lives.

The series of focus groups will meet from 4:45 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, 8:15 to 9:45 a.m. and 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, and 10:15 to 11:45 a.m. Thursday at the Umpqua Community College Lang Center.

A group will discuss community policy as it relates to infrastructure, food and health while other groups will focus on worksites, schools, community engagement and faith-based engagement.

“It’s important to get the voice of community members through focus groups,” said Aaron Patnode, Blue Zones Project Oregon executive director. He added the initiative will be developed, led and driven by local people, with support from Blue Zones.

Blue Zones is hiring a team from the community to lead the efforts.

Going forward, policy experts will be invited to lead a series of work sessions to tackle certain aspects of the Umpqua region.

To assess walk-ability and bike-ability, these experts will travel through the area to check out the roads, sidewalks and bike paths.

The local Blue Zones team will also meet with representatives of the city of Roseburg and nonprofits to talk about policy relating to infrastructure, food policy and tobacco policy among other topics.

After the October 2015 shooting at UCC, a group called the Community Health and Recovery Team (CHART) formed. A leadership team formed as a subset of CHART and decided to apply for Blue Zones.

“We decided as a group that Blue Zones would be a positive thing to bring to Douglas County as a way to promote health and healing,” said Pat Sublette, assistant superintendent for the Douglas Education Service District.

The group continues to meet at the Ford Family Foundation offices in Roseburg.

Anne Kubisch, the president of the foundation, said the team is trying to make the community a vibrant and healthy place for people to thrive and be safe.

“To improve health in our community, it takes all of us,” Kubisch said. From removing candy from check out lines in grocery stores to having team-wide weight loss goals and forming walking groups, there are many simple things store owners and residents can do to become healthier, she added.

Marisa Fink, CEO of the YMCA of Douglas County, wrote a letter of support when the application was sent to Blue Zones.

“Douglas County continues to hover near the bottom of (the state’s) county health rankings, and we are continuing to be concerned about that,” Fink said.

Douglas County is currently ranked 31 out of 36 Oregon counties for health, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2017 report.

The Douglas Education Service District has been involved in health-related activities for awhile. Its staff members are trying to collectively walk enough steps to travel the distance of the U.S.

“It helps improve the quality of life and lead to longevity,” Sublette said, while walking at her tread mill desk at the Douglas ESD office.

“Collectively, we’re going to make people aware of the better choices they can make about being physically active and eating better,” Fink said. “We are really excited the Y will be a part of this because it so closely aligns with our focus on healthy living.”

The level of inactivity in Douglas County continues to be a concern for Fink. The YMCA partners with other service organizations to put on Kick Start Douglas County to provide free zumba and yoga in the park and other outdoor recreation activities each summer. This year’s activities start June 6.

The YMCA has also been working with its vendors to replace unhealthy snacks and drinks with healthy options in the vending machines.

To sign up for a focus group and view the schedule, visit http://go.bluezonesproject.com/umpqua_rsvp, and to see current job openings for the Blue Zones Project Umpqua team, visit Sharecare.com/careers and search for Oregon.

With the goal of making Oregon the healthiest state in the U.S., Cambia Health Foundation is the lead contributor of funding. The organization brought Blue Zones Project to the state.

Local funding organizations for the Blue Zones Project Umpqua are the Oregon Community Foundation, Ford Family Foundation, The Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, Adapt, Douglas Education Service District, Umpqua Health Alliance and CHI Mercy Health. Local organizations had to raise $200,000 in order to leverage the Blue Zones contribution of $833,000.

For more information, visit the Blue Zones Project — Umpqua page on Facebook, www.facebook.com/BlueZonesProjectUmpqua or call 971-319-2201, ext. 105.

Reporter Emily Hoard can be reached at 541-957-4217 or ehoard@nrtoday.com. Or follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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Business, Natural Resources and Outdoors Reporter

Emily Hoard is the business, outdoors and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4217 or by email at ehoard@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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