Writer: Joey Garrand
2 min read May 2022 — With the help of Blue Zones Project, Fayette County, PA is well-positioned to improve the well-being for all individuals and organizations across the county.
The term “blue zones” refers to areas where people live the longest and are the healthiest. Dan Buettner, Blue Zones founder, identified Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California as five places in the world deserving to be dubbed blue zones. While not located on the coast of Greece or in the mountains of Italy, Fayette County is partnering with Blue Zones Project to foster a greater quality of life.
According to Blue Zones Project’s parent organization ShareCare, Fayette County currently ranks 52 out of 67 counties in Pennsylvania with a well-being index score of 48 compared to the state average of 61. However, county leaders are dedicated to improving this. “We want businesses to know that we are very aware of the health of our community, and we are dedicated to doing everything we can to provide individuals and families with the tools to be healthy,” said Commission Chairman of Fayette County Dave Lohr with Invest:.
Lohr’s words ring true as Blue Zones Project Director of Community Partnerships Margaret Brown complimented the participation of local government in a recent presentation of an analysis of the county. “You had 100% participation from your county commissioners, which is a really great metric to meet,” said Brown.
Blue Zones Project’s analysis of the county presented an assessment of the county’s current standing with regard to well-being and provided a general strategy to pursue, but the next step is to develop a plan that can leverage local assets to achieve the strategy outlined. Fortunately, Fayette County is well-known for robust quality of life assets and has a variety of tools at hand.
One of the county’s assets with great potential is its strong agricultural industry. “One of the primary focuses moving forward will be to encourage the consumption of fresh food that isn’t processed,” said Commissioner, Second Vice Chair of Fayette County Scott Dunn with Invest:. “From an economic development standpoint, agriculture is one of our top industries. If we can grow and consume locally grown produce in an effort to foster a healthier population, that will in turn cause our agriculture sector to grow. This is a significant opportunity to reinvent our local agriculture industry.”
As of 2017, the county had over 800 farms producing nearly $30 million in products.
The county also has a variety of outdoor assets that aren’t utilized to their potential. “Sometimes individuals don’t realize what’s in their own backyard,” said Executive Director of GO Laurel Highlands Ann Nemanic. “We want to get people out, exercising and getting fresh air. By changing their lifestyle, we also change their health.”
With natural treasures such as Ohiopyle State Park and the Youghiogheny river, as well as man-made creations such as the Great Allegheny Passage, Fayette County is an ideal destination for outdoor adventures. Historical destinations across the county such as Fallingwater are also notable.
Under the guidance of Blue Zones, Fayette County could achieve $424 million in cumulative medical, productivity and regional economic impact savings, according to a recent release by the county. In addition, the county could achieve an average, cumulative risk reduction regarding health outcomes of 15.2% over 10 years.