Blue Zones goals require self-motivation

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You’re free to make a change. Get more exercise, eat better, relax, have a glass of wine, reach out to friends and family. That’s the essence of the Blue Zones Project, a pricey healthy-living campaign that Charlestonians recently declined.

It would have required raising at least $10 million, most logically from big health-related corporations, with no guarantee costs wouldn’t rise over its five-year arc. And, after months of trying to drum up support, major sponsors failed to materialize.

That’s something we can live with, but we shouldn’t discount the message. Each of us can help Charleston become a healthier community by making a personal commitment to taking better care of ourselves.

Mayor John Tecklenburg’s office, which helped coordinate potential sponsors, issued a statement saying, “The lessons learned will be applied in the development of new and more effective initiatives here in Charleston.”

That’s the spirit. Charleston — a health care hub home to MUSC, The Ralph Johnson Veterans Affairs hospital, Roper St. Francis Healthcare and Trident Health – is among the best-suited cities to mount its own wellness campaign. But any such program should be run by a nonprofit or the city itself. The Minneapolis-based company behind the Blue Zones pitch stood to make a healthy profit as long as its wellness goals were met.

Charleston, which would have been the first Atlantic Coast city to adopt the program, wasn’t the first city to reject Blue Zones. Tough but fair reporting by The Post and Courier’s Lauren Sausser, who examined the effectiveness of Blue Zones in other cities, helped expose some potential pitfalls. Yakima, Washington, for example, backed out of a partnership with the company after initial costs rose by about $3.5 million. Three cities in Iowa rejected Blue Zones after being unable to raise startup funds.

Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner blamed the newspaper in part for derailing the project, but others backers, such as Dr. Patrick Kelly of Roper St. Francis, said the timing wasn’t right and the hospital group just didn’t have the money. BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and other potential sponsors also declined contributions toward the $10 million startup costs.

So Blue Zones is moving on. But it’s not because Charlestonians don’t believe in the value of living a healthy lifestyle. We’re just skeptical of buying one from a for-profit company.

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