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Visitors make their way along the North Shore trail in this 2015 photo at Cheadle Lake in Lebanon. Access to regular exercise, such as through walking paths, is one of the hallmarks of a Blue Zones Project demonstration community. Lebanon rejected becoming a demonstration community and a local group, known as Live Longer Lebanon,  is focusing on improving community health. 

File photo

Lebanon politely declined becoming a Blue Zones demonstration community, but the local team that worked to attract that group rebranded as the Live Longer Lebanon coalition.

That coalition is working on several outreach efforts in order to make Lebanon a healthier community, and will host a community update about those endeavors at 6 p.m. on Nov. 2 at COMP-Northwest, 200 Mullins Dr. 

Deb Fell-Carlson and Wyatt King, members of the LLL team, met with the Lebanon Express to speak about the group's current undertakings. They said people should attend the meeting to learn more about the group and how to get involved. 

The group isn't actively seeking monetary donations, however, they are seeking volunteer help, King said. 

"Getting volunteers to do things, is going to be really, really important to the effort," Fell-Carlson said. "The thing that is going to be important to this meeting is se want to be able to share resources that other organizations have. We'll have a place for other people to put things out." 

There are several organizations throughout the community doing great work to improve community health, and the Live Longer Lebanon team is looking on how to connect all of those pieces together, Fell-Carlson said. 

Blue zones withdrawal 

The former steering committee that was attracting Cambia Healthways to designate Lebanon as a Blue Zones demonstration community decided to withdraw from consideration after a Feb. 1 meeting where several citizens voiced concerns about project’s $800,000 price tag.

At that meeting, Blue Zones organizers said don't think of the program as a grant, think of it as a product that you can buy, King said. 

"Lebanon chose not to buy it," King said. "We decided you know what: 'we can make this at home,' and so that's what we're doing. . . . Although we had a falling out with the overall Blue Zones effort, we liked their model of connecting the different efforts. Helping them not work against each, but work with each other." 

Blue Zones demonstration communities implement programs that mimic healthy living habits of "Blue Zones." "Blue Zones" were discovered by National Geographic researcher Dan Buettner who traveled the world and found five regions where people lived longer and healthier lives than their counterparts elsewhere. The blue zones are Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and among a population of Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California.

Blue Zones materials are publically available online, and Fell-Carlson said they plan on still using that information.

"But we are not going to invite them here to help us," Fell-Carlson said. "There is nothing wrong with Blue Zones material, and we'll use that as we need it." 

Fell-Carlson said that the Blue Zones material identifies nine aspects that people do naturally in those Blue Zones areas. 

One of those nine aspect is "Wine at five," encouraging people to drink a glass of wine socially each day. 

The school and the faith sectors objected to promoting alcohol, Fell-Carlson said. 

"(They said) in Lebanon we don't really need to promote alcohol," Fell-Carlson said. "We don't need to be promoting that to our kids." 

Wine at five is more of a way to encourage a social connection than an encouragement to drink, she added. 

If Lebanon did become a Blue Zones demonstration community, they wouldn't have been able to change that point, Fell-Carlson said. By creating a local group they can tailor these areas specifically for Lebanon. 

"Now I think of it as 'Friends at Five,'" Fell-Carlson said. "If you want to have wine at five, fine, keeping that social piece there, but not glorifying the alcohol." 

Current projects

Without the resources that Cambia Healthways could have brought, which was four-full time employees, the overarching goals have been reduced, and the coalition is focusing on smaller projects first with room for expansion. 

Currently, the group has been focusing its efforts on working with the school district and finding healy initiatives for kids. 

"It's going to focus mostly around schools and grow from there," King said. "One of the long-term initiatives were excited about is developing (and expanding) the community garden at all the schools. Not everyone can grow their own vegetables. We have a vision of having a community plots available at all of the schools where everyone can have their own community garden plot, and the leasing of that space would help finance those programs." 

LLL also is working with the Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Santiam, and helping them to implement initiatives such as the 5-2-1-0 challenge. 

That is a monthly challenge that encourages people to engage in these five habits for 30 days: Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables, limit leisure screen time to two hours or less, one hour of daily activity, and zero sweetened beverages for the month.

One of LLL's first initiatives is to create walking school bus routes, where volunteers "pick up" kids and lead them on a walk to their next destination. One example is at Pioneer School to the Lebanon Boys & Girls Club after school.

Green Acres will be the pilot school for a walking to school bus route, King said. 

The group is following the city's 2040 vision plan for community health, as healthy community was one one of seven focus areas identified in the visioning process. 

"That's our north star," Fell-Carlson said. 

"A huge part of our Lebanon 2040 vision is having a healthy community," King said.

Live Longer Lebanon has partnered with the Lebanon Community School District, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam, the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments, and local community groups to help Lebanon’s kids and those who support them develop the lifelong practices that lead to healthy, happy lives.

For more information, contact Jennifer Meckley, Human Resources and Community Relations Director, Lebanon Schools at  Jennifer.meckley@Lebanon.k12.or.us or 541-259-8908 for more information or if your organization has resources to share.

To learn more about volunteering, contact LLL at LiveLongerLebanon@Gmail.com or send a message to the group's Facebook page. 

Habrá traducción al español disponible. Si tiene preguntas, llame a: Yesenia Salinas al 541-405-6347. 

Eds. note: Following the Feb. 1 the Lebanon Express penned an editorial encouraging the original steering comittee to disband and rebrand to focus community health efforts locally, which happened soon after the editorial was published online. 


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