Rita Williams, Krista Griffin and Kim Blanch have a shared goal and it’s simple: they want to help give people longer, better lives. To do it, they’ve collectively become champions for the Blue Zones Project, a community well-being improvement initiative designed to change the way people experience the world around them by making healthy choices easy. They’re determined to transform ours. Implementation would improve or optimize city streets (smoking policies, bike lanes, sidewalks), public spaces (parks, lakes, walking paths), schools (cafeterias, safe walking paths to school), restaurants, grocery stores, employers, faith-based organizations and community involvement. This all results in lower healthcare costs, improved productivity, lowered obesity and smoking rates while boosting national recognition as a great place to live, work and play. Other progressive cities like Beach Cities, California, Albert Lea, Minnesota, and Klamath Falls, Oregon. have already adopted the Blue Zone principles with much success.
Williams, a Cape grad, and manager of Psychosocial Services for Beebe Healthcare’s Tunnell and South Coastal Cancer Centers, oversees counseling and social work, nutrition, nurse navigation and integrative health services for individuals and families affected by cancer. Griffin is a chiropractor passionate about tapping into the human potential. A perpetual student, she’s constantly learning and evolving her practice to address the physical, mental and emotional aspects of health and healing. Blanch works as the Director of Community Outreach at Beebe, leading work in the community that aims to take care to the community and connect the community back to the additional care and services they need. The overarching mission is to support individuals in their pursuit of improved well-being, ability to self-manage, and enhanced health outcomes. This is accomplished through education, empowerment, skill-building, and connection to resources. In her private practice, she guides clients to develop increased awareness and expanded toolkits they can draw upon for optimal while-person health that can include practices such as yoga postures, breath work, massage and mindful health-positive choices.
Having all lived in Sussex County for more than two decades, their shared vested interest in this area and a dedicated pursuit of population health positions them perfectly to carry the banner for the Blue Zones Project. “BZP is lock step with what I do, says Griffin. “My day job is to educate and to inspire people to take control of their health and well-being by offering simple, evidence-based solutions. The BZP does exactly the same thing but on a large scale.”
But implementing broad changes takes time and locally, the Blue Zone Project is in the early stages of planning and kick-off. The first steps have been to socialize the initiative to see if it is something the community has interest in and to garner support and commitment from key stakeholders. The three have proven to be pretty persuasive at getting people to hear them out. From the beginning, each meeting, presentation or conversation they’ve had has been met with enthusiasm and support. “We have heard from many individuals that they have sought out more information and many have also started adopting blue zones principles into their own lives,” says Griffin, “Beebe was the first to say ‘we want this for our employees and our community’ and after a Chamber presentation, an employee at city hall suggested one way to start may be to remove the soda machines.”
Williams remarks, “It feels unanimous that initiatives such as this are needed now more than ever.” But can we be recognized as pioneers and innovators in population health? Griffin is hopeful, “Every time we present to an audience the excitement and interest reaffirms that the time is now and the community is ready for a collective movement towards connection and well-being.”
KIM’S LOCAL FAVS
- Beach Dewey — it’s dog-friendly.
- Restaurant Henlopen City Oyster House
- Coffee Rise Up
- Ice cream spot DiFebo’s Market
- Beach activity Naps
KRISTA’S LOCAL FAVS
- Sunset Lewes Yacht Club
- Coffee Mudslingers
- Trail Gordon’s Pond
- Restaurant Heirloom
- Ice cream spot DiFebo’s Market
RITA’S LOCAL FAVS
- Beach Naval Jetty in Cape Henlopen State Park.
- Lunch spot The Station on Kings
- Beach activity Watching my boys surf and connecting with friends.
- Ice cream spot Marigold