Yuba-Sutter Embarks on Action Plan to Optimize Built Environment
The region’s Blue Zones community blueprint lays out a multi-pronged approach to community health and well-being


April 24, 2023: The concept of living longer, healthier lives is the impetus behind a program known as Blue Zones, where communities take a proactive approach to improving health and well-being through a variety of initiatives. The idea started with National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner, who took existing demographic research and expanded it to discover five places in the world with the highest concentration of people who are healthy and living to 100 years or older. All the regions share nine specific lifestyle habits like moving naturally, having a sense of purpose, consuming more plant-based foods, and belonging to social circles that support healthy behaviors. The Blue Zones lifestyle habits are now providing a roadmap for 18 other cities (and counting) where people want to live longer, better lives. Yuba-Sutter is among them. The community of Yuba-Sutter, which encompasses Yuba City, Marysville, Live Oak, Wheatland, and the unincorporated areas of Sutter and Yuba counties, is in its second year of a five-year Blue Zones implementation plan.  

Blue Zones Project Yuba-Sutter is sponsored by the Adventist Health system, which was interested in incorporating well-being into the communities it serves. In February, Marni Sanders took over as the new executive director. Sanders is charged with implementing the Blue Zones community blueprint, a strategic, well-being action plan that was created with leaders in the community to take the necessary steps to become Blue Zones certified. “Our role is really to be a facilitator and convener on all things that create an environment that fosters health and well-being,” she says.   

The organization was recently awarded $800,000 by the United States Department of Transportation through the Safe Streets for all (SS4A) grant program, to implement one of its top policy priorities: creating safer built environments. The funding will be used to develop a Regional Safety Action Plan that adds sidewalks, bike lanes, curbed ramps, and accessible public transportation to encourage more walking and biking and less driving. Connecting through parks, hiking trails, bike trails, and walking paths is also a priority. “Creating that space invites people to come together and move naturally,” says Sanders. “Safety is also a big factor. When people feel safe and comfortable in their environments, they are more likely to use the amenities and be healthier for it.” Yuba-Sutter is also conducting a Complete Streets Assessment to determine the best areas to implement the Regional Safety Action Plan features. These efforts bolster active transportation investments like building Safe Routes to Schools in Yuba County, and trail extensions in and around Yuba City.  

Additional priorities for Blue Zones Project Yuba-Sutter are eliminating tobacco as much as possible by creating smoke-free environments and providing access to healthier food choices for all in the community.  

Blue Zones comprise the three categories of people, places, and policy. For people, Yuba-Sutter is focused on engaging with individuals, families, and the faith-based community. Places includes working with local businesses to improve well-being and healthier choices in the community’s worksites, schools, restaurants, and grocery stores. Policy includes opportunities for healthy living through purpose workshops, cooking demonstrations, and moai’s, a Japanese term for coming together for a common purpose.  

“Blue Zones to me seem like that missing link that we now have to make the healthier choice the easier choice. Just making simple, little changes in your lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on your life, your life span, and your life happiness. And that’s what we are here to do,” says Sanders. 

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