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Blue Zones initiative wants to help people in South Phoenix live healthier & longer

Posted at 6:57 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 22:01:23-04

PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix and several organizations are working together to try to help people in South Phoenix live better and longer.

Equality Health Foundation, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona, and Valley of the Sun United Way announced the launch of a new Blue Zones Activate effort.

Blue zones are based on research that identified cultures of the world with the healthiest, longest-living populations.

Tomás León, the president of Equality Health Foundation, said they're focusing on three areas: people, places and policy.

"Policies that influence healthy living, food, tobacco, alcohol, as well as housing and employment and education," he said.

León said people want to see more food options and community gardens. They're in the process of reaching out to the community for feedback.

"We’re in that community assessment process, that will set the priorities, the focus on the nine zip codes that we're focusing on in South Phoenix to take to determine what strategies and programs we’re going to implement," said León.

According to a recent study from Virginia Commonwealth University, there's a 14-year difference in life expectancy in the Valley. The 85258 zip code in Scottsdale has a life expectancy of 85 years, and the 85004 zip code in South Phoenix has a life expectancy of 71 years.

"So we got a lot of work to do," said León. "We want to rally the entire community, the city to get behind South Phoenix and begin this transformation process so people can live longer happier lives."

Alan "AP" Powell from the Herozona Foundation is working with some of the groups to reach community members and see what they want to see in their neighborhoods.

"We have the people now we just need to have the options to go with the community and the graduation of the community," he said.

Powell has lived in South Phoenix for nearly 20 years. He said more people are moving to the area but there aren't enough restaurants, grocery stores and other options to keep up.

“I think one of the things that has happened in the past in South Phoenix, it’s a lot of people promised but never delivered. And I think this time it’s a collaboration with the community gets to work side-by-side to get results," said Powell.

Several organizations, as well as funding from Arizona’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act Funds, are supporting the first phase of Blue Zones Activate.

The group will be hearing feedback from the community over the next several months.