4/24/17 – The final two kick-off events for the Dodge County Blue Zones Project were held over the weekend. The regional health initiative brings together local volunteers with health experts from around the country to implement a series of strategies focused on healthy, active living and is designed to give people a supportive nudge toward eating better and moving more naturally. Nick Buettner, who was one of the original exploration members who travelled the globe searching for healthy communities to model Blue Zones after, attended the kickoff events to share his experiences. Buettner says that he can bring in the ideas, the engagement, train a team, but the success of Blue Zones relies the communities. He adds that the support of political leaders, worksites, restaurants, grocery stores, and people to say this is what we want is important to long term success. Kim Miller, who is the President and CEO of the Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, has been pushing Dodge County to make healthier choices. In 2013, Dodge County was ranked as the 55th healthiest county in the state out of 72, according to an annual study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Miller credits the Blue Zone work done so far with that ranking falling to 22nd in the last year. She wants to see Dodge County at number one in the near future. With Beaver Dam Hospital sponsoring the Blue Zones initiative, Miller says that hospitals have always been seen as a place of illness. Adding that it is important to be there when people are in need but prefer to be preventing diseases, helping people manage diseases differently, and help them have a higher quality of life because they are healthy. She notes that it is important to start that change at all ages but if we start in the schools, then children are learning early and will carry that with them the rest of their lives. Miller adds that she is appreciative of the support and everyone who participated in this project so far.