Central Maui is turning blue

Area chosen to be one of five Blue Zones in the state

Wailuku/Kahului was one of five communities statewide chosen to join the Blue Zones Project, a community well-being improvement initiative.

The announcement Thursday means that the Central Maui towns will gain access to national expertise and a local team of well-being consultants, a news release announcing the selection said. During the three-year program, Blue Zones Project, which is also sponsored by the Hawaii Medical Service Association, will support community engagement to create an environment that encourages well-being and use scientifically proven lessons of longevity, health and happiness “to create vibrant communities and boost the well-being of their residents,” the news release said.

The project was inspired by research that shed light on areas around the globe where residents live measurably longer, better lives, according to project officials, who made a presentation in Wailuku in the summer. By 2005, scientists had identified five Blue Zones: Loma Linda, Calif.; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece. In these places, residents reach the age of 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the U.S. overall and have lower rates of chronic disease.

National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner chronicled these findings in a New York Times best-selling book “The Blue Zones – Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” The Blue Zones Project applies this research practically within communities, project officials told local officials.

“Our community is a perfect fit for Blue Zones Project because the generations of local families here have a strong sense of ohana,” said Ashley Leahey, a leader of the Wailuku/Kahului Blue Zones effort. “Our friends and neighbors are like family to us and we care for each other. With Blue Zones Project, we’ll be able to create a legacy of health consciousness that will positively impact our keiki and help all of our residents live happy, healthy lives.”

The community will begin building leadership teams and committees to work with schools, grocery stores, restaurants, worksites, faith-based organizations and policy leaders “to make the healthy choice the easy choice in their community,” the news release said. Kickoff celebrations for the public will be held later this year to officially launch the Blue Zones communities.

The five Hawaii communities went through a competitive selection process over the summer. The original plan was to select two new sites, but in the end the five communities demonstrated the ability to take on the initiative, the news release said.

The other four communities are Kapolei/Ewa, Manoa/Makiki/McCully/Moiliili and Wahaiwa on Oahu and West Hawaii. They join North and East Hawaii and Koolaupoko in Windward Oahu that were selected in 2015.

For more information on the Blue Zones Project in Hawaii, go to hawaii.bluezonesproject.com.

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