Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) is one of the largest preventive health agencies in the nation serving the communities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach since 1955.
It offers an extensive range of dynamic health and wellness programs, with innovative services and facilities to promote health and prevent diseases in every lifespan—from children to families and older adults. California Special District asked BCHD to talk about some of those programs and services that enrich the communities they serve.
BCHD implements the Blue Zones Project®. Please tell us about the Blue Zones Project® and how BCHD is involved.
Blue Zones are the five areas of the world where people live the longest and the Blue Zones Project® is a community well-being improvement initiative designed to change the way people experience the world around them. By impacting environment, policy, and social networks, Blue Zones Project® makes healthy choices easier. As a result, people can live longer, better, and communities can lower healthcare costs, improve productivity, and boost national recognition as a great place to live, work, and play. (From healthways.com/bluezonesproject)
The Beach Cities (Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach) joined the national Blue Zones Project® movement in 2010 and achieved certification as a Blue Zones Community® in 2016. Blue Zones Project® allows BCHD to directly address population health issues and utilize a world-class measurement tool (Gallup polling) to chart our progress. The Beach Cities are the largest community to ever reach certification and are experiencing arguably the most dramatic health outcomes – including measurable declines in overweight, smoking and stress rates among residents. Changes supported by the Blue Zones Project® in the Beach Cities include:
- Bike lanes including a protected bike path and reverse angle parking
- More than 130 Blue Zones Restaurants® (healthy restaurants program)
- Comprehensive tobacco control ordinances
- City adoption of a bike master plan, Beach Cities Livability Plan and Living Streets policy
Blue Zones Project® focuses on the Power 9 principles (http://www.bchd.org/power-9-principles) and helping to make the healthy choice the easy choice:
- Move Naturally – The world’s longest-lived people live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.
- Purpose – Having a sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
- Down Shift – Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. Reverse disease by creating a stress-relieving strategy that works for you.
- 80% Rule – Eat mindfully and stop when 80 percent full. The 20 percent gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing or gaining weight. People in Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then don’t eat any more the rest of the day.
- Plant Slant – Adding more fruits and veggies to your plate can add years to your life. Beans, including fava, black, soy, and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets.
- Wine @ 5 – Enjoying company with others is important for social connection.
- Belong – Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add four to 14 years of life expectancy.
- Loved Ones First – Successful centenarians in Blue Zones areas put their families first.
- Right Tribe – The world’s longest lived people also choose—or are born into—social circles that support healthy behaviors. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. The social networks of long-lived people favorably shape their health behaviors.
How has BCHD’s implementation of the Blue Zones Project® improved outreach to the communities BCHD serves and what are some measurable outcomes of the program?
The Blue Zones Project® is a community-wide initiative – meaning it depends on community involvement. The Blue Zones Project® in the Beach Cities has partnered with local schools, restaurants, workplaces and organizations to implement Blue Zones Project® programming. Beach Cities showed the following results on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index from 2010 – 2017:
- The number of obese residents came in at less than half the national average.
- Just 12.1 percent of residents are obese, compared to 23.8 percent statewide and 28.1 percent nationally.
- Smoking declined more than 17 percent.
- Daily significant stress dropped 9 percent from the rate measured in 2010, which at the time was on par with post-Katrina New Orleans and recession-ravaged Detroit.
BCHD also hosts a variety of school and youth programs – one being the Walking School Bus. Please tell us about this program and how it has benefited the communities taking part.
The goal of Walking School Bus is simple: Students will safely walk to school on a regular basis with adult supervision. The program increases daily physical and social activity for children as well as engages adult volunteers, thereby promoting a well-rounded healthy community.
Since 2011, BCHD has partnered with school officials, volunteers and parents that want to offer the Walking School Bus program. In 2016-17 school year, 60 volunteers led 30 Walking School Bus routes with hundreds of students. In the last decade, a strong culture of walking has been adopted by school districts in the Beach Cities because of the program’s success In addition to the Walking School Bus, BCHD locally directs, in partnership with the Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach school districts, the MindUP program. This research-driven curriculum blends mindful awareness practices with the science behind how the brain functions and reacts to stimuli like stress, anger and anxiety – emotions that research shows to be increasingly prevalent among young people today – to help students become emotionally articulate and grow socially. One example is Pennekamp Elementary in Manhattan Beach where each morning begins the same way – before the first class bell sounds, roughly 600 students, teachers, and parents gather together in organized groups on the blacktop for a full minute of complete and utter silence.
BCHD provides local teachers with the required training to administer the in-class lessons, which include daily breathing exercises, meditation and interactive lessons on the parts of the human brain that regulate different emotions. Each teacher is encouraged to tailor the lessons to fit their personal teaching style and classroom culture. Since first implementing the program in select Beach Cities schools six years ago, a significant number of principals and administrators have reported fewer incidences of bullying, disciplinary office visits and emotional outbursts on campuses where MindUP has taken hold.
Did BCHD programs develop out of a need from the community?
Since 2010, BCHD programs have saved 21 million in direct medial costs. For every tax dollar received, BCHD returns $3.50 in programs and services to the community. BCHD has an evidence-based strategic planning process to prioritize and guide funding and programmatic decisions. The plan includes a community needs assessment process, which informs BCHD’s Community Health Snapshot Report. This critical data helps BCHD achieve its vision and meet its strategic planning goals.
BCHD’s partnership with Blue Zones Project® has also afforded access to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index (WBI). The WBI is a national measure of well-being that provides leaders with the information they need to create solutions for making their community healthier.
For more information on these programs, please visit: