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Fort Worth losing weight, gaining ground on health

Fit mind, fit body, fit kids is the goal of this aftercare program

Fit Kids of America, an after school enrichment program that works to improve children’s literacy skills, physical fitness and social skills. It is partially funded by The Children’s Trust.
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Fit Kids of America, an after school enrichment program that works to improve children’s literacy skills, physical fitness and social skills. It is partially funded by The Children’s Trust.

Well-being is at a new high in Fort Worth, as the city reaches a milestone in its efforts to become one of the nation’s healthiest communities. After a five-year push to make healthy choices easier, Fort Worth has earned the title of Blue Zones Community.

Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being improvement initiative informed by lifestyles of the world’s longest living people.

Invited here in 2013 by the city, Texas Health Resources, and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, Blue Zones Project has partnered with city leaders, employers, schools, restaurants, grocery stores and faith-based organizations to implement practices that make healthy choices easier and support longer, better lives.

Fort Worth joins 19 cities across the country in earning the designation and is now the nation’s largest Blue Zones Community.

We made an investment in community well-being, and it is paying off. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, an annual study of well-being across the nation, shows that the city’s residents are thriving. Fort Worth’s overall 2018 Well-Being Index score rose to 62.5, a gain of nearly four points over 2014 figures. Meanwhile the U.S. score is 61.3 and trending downward.

Compared to the 190 largest metro areas reported nationally, Fort Worth’s equivalent rank for well-being rose from 185th in 2014 to 58th in 2017.

More than ever, Fort Worth is a place where families want to live and companies want to do business — and the changes inspired and supported by Blue Zones Project have played a central role in getting us there.

More than 88,000 people have taken the Blue Zones Personal Pledge or participated in a Blue Zones Project activity, such as a walking group or Purpose Workshop.

Some 130 employers, representing 78,000 employees, have implemented policies that improve well-being, such as supporting walking or standing meetings, designating a quiet place for workers to downshift, and encouraging microbreaks for employees to stretch and move.

Forty-five schools, representing 30,000 students, have made well-being improvements including campus gardens, mindfulness exercises, and more fresh produce in the cafeteria.

On any given day, 6,000 people dine in Blue Zones Project-approved restaurants offering more nutritious options and smaller portions, and another 25,000 eat in Blue Zones Project-approved worksite cafes.

Twenty grocery stores are highlighting Blue Zones-inspired foods and sharing healthy recipes.

In all, more than 300 organizations have joined the movement — making small changes which, added together, have major impact. Every day, 200,000 people in Fort Worth are experiencing the benefits associated with Blue Zones Project.

And those benefits are profound. Individuals and families are living their best life. Businesses that take on the challenge have realized healthcare cost savings. We’re making it easier and safer for kids to walk or bike to school. Fort Worth has improved access to fresh produce in food deserts and implemented a comprehensive smoking ban.

Blue Zones Project alone could not achieve these results. Our community and hundreds of partners and organizations working together with a unified vision to improve the health and well-being of every resident have achieved something remarkable. Through innovation and collaboration, we’ve created a re-imagined Fort Worth: a more active, livable place, a place where we’ve reduced the risks of chronic disease by prioritizing a preventive approach.

To mark our achievement of Blue Zones Community status, the city is hosting a special event from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Will Rogers Memorial Center. We invite everyone in Fort Worth to come celebrate what we’ve accomplished, and to look with us toward the future. After all, this is just the beginning of Fort Worth’s well-being journey.

While there is more work to be done, we have an incredibly solid foundation on which to build. Learn more at LiveLongFortWorth.com. Together we’re making a stronger, healthier Fort Worth.

Betsy Price is mayor of Fort Worth. Barclay Berdan is CEO of Texas Health Resources. Bill Thornton is president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
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