Texas Health Resources is looking beyond hospital rooms and patient charts and working to make Fort Worth one of the healthiest cities in the country. As the primary sponsor of Blue Zones Project®, Fort Worth, the regional health system is leading the community-wide well-being improvement movement. With 23,000 employees and more than 400 points of access throughout North Texas, Texas Health is the nation’s largest employer and health system to become Blue Zones Project Approved™, demonstrating how employers can play a significant role in promoting longer, better lives.
Blue Zones Project works with selected cities, including Fort Worth, to transform environments and daily routines in ways that make healthy choices easier. From moving naturally and eating with a plant slant to having a sense of purpose and downshifting to relieve stress, principles are patterned after lifestyles in Blue Zones® areas—pockets of the world where people are most likely to reach age 100 and beyond.
Texas Health helped bring Blue Zones Project to Fort Worth in 2014 and continues to back implementation of the initiative, including improvements to its worksite environment and award-winning Be Healthy program to help employees improve their personal well-being.
“Blue Zones Project is a major priority for our organization, and it reflects the value each member of the Texas Health family places on well-being,” said Barclay Berdan, FACHE, CEO of Texas Health Resources. “We are dedicated to creating a workplace that promotes health and longevity for our employees and providing the people we serve with the care, support, and tools they need to live their best lives.”
Each of the Texas Health’s wholly owned locations completed the Blue Zones Worksite® Pledge—establishing walking paths at all locations, encouraging employees to take “microbreaks” to stretch and move, creating Blue Zones parking spaces, hosting on-site purpose workshops and health screenings, and supporting volunteerism, among other efforts.
“Texas Health Resources is an example of an organization that truly walks the walk,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. “Through Blue Zones Project, Texas Health is transforming the well-being of its employees and our entire community. Its vision and innovative leadership are helping Fort Worth become one of the healthiest cities in the nation, and Texas Health stands as a model for employers across the country.”
The Blue Zones Worksite Pledge promotes evidence-based actions and lifestyle principles that help make the healthy choice the easiest choice for employees. This translates into increased productivity and a potential healthcare cost savings for employers. Across the country, more than 454 employers have taken the Blue Zones Worksite Pledge.
Blue Zones Project, Fort Worth currently counts 54 approved worksites, including all 18 locations for the City of Fort Worth. Texas Health is currently the largest employer and health system in the world to earn the designation.
“We spend a majority of our time at work, and whether a company has 50 employees or 5,000, employers can play a huge role in improving the overall health of a community,” said Matt Dufrene, vice president of Blue Zones Project, Fort Worth. “Texas Health is leading that charge here, by demonstrating that small changes can have a big impact—within their organization and beyond. That’s what Blue Zones Project is all about.”
In addition to worksites, Blue Zones Project, Fort Worth has 26 approved restaurants, four grocery stores, four schools, and two churches, plus 11 participating organizations—all of which have optimized their environments to make healthy choices easier. In addition, more than 18,000 people who live, work, and play in Fort Worth have taken the Blue Zones Personal Pledge. Once city-specific goals are met, Fort Worth will become a nationally certified Blue Zones Community®.
The Fort Worth Blue Zones Project® is a community-wide well-being initiative launched in 2015 that is all about making healthy options more available in every aspect of life. As well as being a key partner in this community project, Texas Health Resources set a goal to bring the Blue Zones Project® to all its worksite locations in 2016.
Texas Health officially became the largest Blue Zone ApprovedTM Worksite in the world in August 2016. We credit our enthusiastic employees as one of the reasons we could achieve the approval months ahead of our goal. Achieving the designation also helps advance our Mission to improve the health of the communities we serve, and reflects The THR PromiseSM Individuals Caring For Individuals, Together®.
Part of the worksite approval criteria included having at least 25 percent of our population pledge to incorporate the Power9 habits into their lives. Each of our Texas Health locations exceeded its 25 percent participation goal only six months into the project. As of February 2017, more than 7,500 employees have signed the Blue Zones Personal Pledge and made a commitment to improve their own well-being.
As a part of our award-winning Be Healthy program, we already had many sustainable environments in place to help employees live longer better live such as meditation gardens, downshift rooms, yoga classes, indoor and outdoor walking paths, and chances to give back. Our existing Community Time Off program supports volunteer opportunities in Fort Worth and surrounding areas so employees can give back to their community through BZP activities and other community initiatives and programs as needed.
As a culture, we have been providing a mindful moment to start our meetings well before we started the Blue Zones project. As a faith-based organization we embrace diversity and inclusion. Within this culture, we already encourage our employees to practice the Power9 habit of Belonging.
In 2016, we encouraged employees to form special walking groups within their departments called Moais. This is one of the healthy habits identified in Okinawa that incorporates natural movement and social connection with a Right Tribe during the work day. Like each of the Blue Zones areas identified in Dan Buettner’s study on longevity, this Blue Zone contains people who are living into their 100s by moving naturally and keeping lifelong social connections.
We also encouraged our employees to better well-being by providing a “state of the union” of our organizations’ health metrics posted on our dedicated wellness website. On this same website, we also provided easy to follow Blue Zones stretch breaks to help employees practice another Power9 habit, downshifting. Each Texas Health location now proudly boasts special Blue Zones parking spaces to encourage employees to park further away from work to add even more natural movement to their day. We also brought the Blue Zones Power9 habit, “Know Your Purpose” to our locations by holding onsite Purpose Workshops at Texas Health locations in 2016.
To continue sustainability of the Blue Zones Project in 2017, at our worksites, we are taking the philosophy of making the healthy choice the easy choice and applying it to the overall environment and food selections at our dining facilities with the goal of each location’s onsite dining café becoming a BZP approved restaurant.
Each of these initiatives and programs weave the Power9 principles of Blue Zones into the fabric of our organization, and our employees love it. Together we will improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve – starting with ourselves. The way we care about our employees and each other is one of the many reasons Texas Health is such a great place to work.