Five years ago, Fort Worth set out on an ambitious quest: to turn Cowtown into a haven for healthy living. Since then, we’ve demonstrated that better well-being really is a product of our environment. By making healthy choices easier where people live, work and play, we’ve created a movement that is good for people and good for business.
Blue Zones Project, a community-led well-being improvement initiative, helped lead that charge. Since Mayor Betsy Price, Texas Health Resources, and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce invited Blue Zones Project to Fort Worth in 2013, we’ve seen amazing transformations in schools, restaurants, grocery stores, faith-based organizations, and work sites. The project has met and exceeded every goal for both individual and organizational engagement and worked with the city to accomplish significant policy changes that support healthy living. That includes an enhanced smoking ordinance and increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
By the end of 2018, Fort Worth is expected to become the nation’s largest certified Blue Zones Community, a title that recognizes cities for implementing principles that reflect the lifestyles of the world’s longest living people.
The business community played a central role in this effort. More than 120 Fort Worth employers joined the movement, positively affecting some 71,000 members of the local workforce. Businesses have hosted workshops to help employees identify their purpose, supported walking meetings, created areas for employees to downshift, transformed on-site dining options to showcase healthy options, and implemented other initiatives that inspire and promote well-being.
Consider Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Since launching Blue Zones Project efforts (including the establishment of walking routes through the airport and a healthy lunch with a coworker program), the airport’s health care cost increase rate is running 40 percent below the national trend.
At Mother Parker’s Tea & Coffee, a leading North American coffee roaster with offices in Fort Worth, medical claim payments dropped almost 15 percent in a year, while pharmacy claim payments are down more than 26 percent. The City of Fort Worth has seen a considerable drop in the number of employees in the high and moderate health-risk categories, while the number of low-risk employees has increased.
According to a 2012 Gallup State of the American Workplace study, employees with high overall well-being have 41 percent lower health-related costs compared with employees who are “struggling” and 62 percent lower costs compared with employees who are “suffering.”
But reduced health care costs represent just one benefit. Implementing Blue Zones principles also is associated with increased employee productivity, reduction in absenteeism, reduction in employee turnover, increased ability to attract candidates, and increased employee morale.
When you improve the well-being of the community, both employers and employees realize savings — and Fort Worth is on the leading edge when it comes to creating a healthy workforce that will continue to attract companies to the area. Blue Zones Project is proud to work alongside other community partners to prioritize well-being and create real, sustainable change.
By Matt Dufrene
Vice President of Blue Zones Project, Fort Worth