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Blue Zones and American College of Lifestyle Medicine Create Partnership to Accelerate a Lifestyle-First Approach to All Healthcare

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Alliance will combine proven, powerful efforts inside and outside hospital and clinic walls to ignite health transformation and reduce the epidemic of chronic disease.

ST. LOUIS, May 14, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Blue Zones and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) have announced a global impact partnership to address the health crisis of rising chronic disease rates and rising healthcare-related costs. Blue Zones, the global leader in longevity research and well-being solutions, and ACLM, the leading organization for promoting lifestyle medicine as a first-line treatment for chronic disease, will combine their strengths to disrupt the healthcare status quo and shift the focus from treating symptoms and managing disease to the prevention, treatment and reversal of chronic disease through evidence-based lifestyle intervention.

Blue Zones x ACLM

The partnership brings together Blue Zones’ evidence-based roadmap to living a better, longer life through their identification and research of the world’s longest-lived, healthiest and happiest cultures in the blue zones regions with ACLM’s expertise in lifestyle medicine, a proven treatment approach that utilizes therapeutic lifestyle changes such as whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, positive social connection, and the avoidance of risky substances.

“We are thrilled to partner with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine through a shared vision of creating healthier and stronger communities nationwide,” said Ben Leedle, CEO of Blue Zones and Co-founder of Blue Zones Project. “At Blue Zones, we have been at the forefront of creating meaningful population-level well-being improvement outside hospital and clinic walls, resulting in healthier, happier communities and sustainable gains in per capita overall well-being, which has driven millions in healthcare savings, improved productivity, and regional economic impact. Meanwhile, ACLM has been driving the field of lifestyle medicine forward for the past two decades, working to transform healthcare from within hospital and clinic walls. This partnership represents a paradigm shift by combining the power of lifestyle medicine with community driven well-being improvement.”

Blue Zones and ACLM share a commitment to address the unsustainable trajectory of chronic disease and its associated costs, both domestically and internationally. More than 60% of American adults—and a growing number of children—have already been diagnosed with at least one chronic disease, and 90% of the nation’s staggering $4.7 trillion in annual healthcare spending can be attributed to costs related to chronic diseases and mental health conditions. Globally, cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes account for over 80% of premature deaths.

Together, ACLM and Blue Zones will establish a new clinician certification status of “Blue Zones-Certified Physician” or “Blue Zones-Certified Healthcare Professional.” Earning the new designation will be available exclusively to clinicians who are already trained in the growing field of lifestyle medicine and certified to practice in the U.S. by either the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine (ABLM), the certification body for physicians, or ACLM, the certification body for eligible non-physicians. Outside the U.S., the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine (IBLM) is the certification body. Since the inaugural certification exam in 2017, nearly 6,700 clinicians—more than 5,000 physicians and 1,700 health professionals—have become certified in lifestyle medicine. These clinicians will become eligible to pursue the additional Blue Zones designations starting in early 2025.

Physicians and other health professionals interested in learning more about earning certification to practice lifestyle medicine, the prerequisite to the upcoming Blue Zones-certified physician and healthcare professional recognition, may register their interest here and begin meeting their prerequisites.

“It is clear that the traditional healthcare model of simply prescribing costly, ever-increasing quantities of pharmaceuticals and procedures with risky side effects is broken, and we need new innovative approaches,” said ACLM President Beth Frates, MD, FACLM, DipABLM, who also serves as associate professor, part time, at Harvard Medical School. “Lifestyle medicine-certified clinicians are educated and trained to treat the root causes of common chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, with intensive lifestyle interventions when appropriate, for a clinical outcome goal of health restoration as opposed to disease management. With Blue Zones’ global reach and brand recognition, those who earn Blue Zones certification will stand out as clinicians with the education and training to provide patients with the whole-person, evidence-based care they want and deserve.”

In addition to creating the new certification opportunity, Blue Zones will be recognized as the exclusive founding partner of ACLM’s Center for Lifestyle Medicine Innovation (CLMI), a hub for research, innovation, thought leadership and knowledge sharing. Individuals and organizations interested in joining ACLM and Blue Zones in advancing research that is focused on identifying and eradicating the root causes of disease are invited to learn more here.

“Lifestyle medicine is the prescription with only positive side effects,” said Blue Zones Chief Medical Officer, CLMI President, and ACLM Past President Dexter Shurney, MD, MBA, MPH, FACLM, DipABLM. “It’s the medicine that we must make available to one and all in order to create sustainable health and healthcare, as well as a sustainable world. The new Center—emerging from ACLM’s research, innovation and practice advancement efforts and building on the work of the Blue Zones Institute—will be keenly focused on innovative research and demonstration projects, the outcomes of which will serve to further solidify the urgency of a lifestyle medicine-first approach to all healthcare.”

As part of the partnership, ACLM is offering practice advancement consultative support to health systems integrating lifestyle medicine in Blue Zones communities, leveraging ACLM’s extensive patient-facing and clinical practice tools and health systems resources. Since its 2021 inception, 109 health systems have joined ACLM’s Health System Council (HSC), comprised of innovative health organizations from nearly 40 states dedicated to providing high-value care through lifestyle medicine.

“ACLM Past President Dr. David Katz often says, ‘Lifestyle is by far the best medicine, and culture is the spoon,’ casting a vision of a nation and world wherein all clinicians are lifestyle medicine-trained, delivering care in communities in which the healthy choice is the easy choice,” said ACLM Executive Director Susan Benigas. “ACLM and Blue Zones share this vision and are at the forefront of championing it. We’re dedicated to equipping and empowering clinicians to play an integral role in transforming the health of their respective communities. Each physician and primary care provider who becomes trained in lifestyle medicine and Blue Zones principles has exponential impact, as each touches hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. The ripple effect is already igniting the disruptive transformation our healthcare system so desperately needs.” 

“This new partnership between Blue Zones and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine is a monumental leap forward in preventive health,” said Wayne Dysinger, MD, MPH, FACLM, DipABLM, ACLM past president and chief medical officer at Healthly. “Imagine–years of groundbreaking research and practice by Blue Zones, unlocking the secrets to long life and applying them to communities meets the clinical approach of ACLM, empowering lifestyle medicine at the hospital, clinic, and individual levels. For those of us that have been promoting preventive health and lifestyle medicine, this isn’t just about individual lives – it’s about a healthier society, a lighter burden on healthcare systems, and a world where improved well-being is the norm. We’re on the verge of a revolution – a shift from simply patching up illness to actively building a future brimming with vibrant health. That’s the exciting reality this partnership promises.”

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Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States and distinguished laureate professor at the University of Arizona, said “I applaud the innovative partnership between the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and Blue Zones as it creates precisely the synergy between the medical profession and the communities in which they practice that is sorely needed to truly alter the unsustainable trajectory of chronic disease and associated spending. Physicians and other medical professionals trained and certified to practice lifestyle medicine are the final missing piece in Blue Zones’ incredible track record of success transforming communities, so people live longer and better.”

Anand Parekh, MD, chief medical advisor of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said “In my book, Prevention First: Policymaking for a Healthier America, I emphasize the need to mobilize the entire community ecosystem to take proactive steps in both preventing disease and promoting health. This convergence of Blue Zones and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine represents an ecosystem approach unlike any other. This starts with our physicians and medical professionals being trained in both lifestyle medicine—which includes prescribing food as medicine—and Blue Zones principles. This isn’t a red issue or blue issue. ACLM and Blue Zones’ goal is to educate and empower all people to take far greater control of their health destinies, with a keen focus on addressing lifestyle-related chronic disease health disparities.”

Kate Goodrich, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Humana, said “I have been thrilled with Humana’s partnership with the ACLM to provide accessible lifestyle medicine training for all of Humana and Centerwell’s employed healthcare professionals and our network clinicians. This whole-person approach to care empowers and enables our clinicians to invest in the patient relationship and moves us from an acute, episodic sick care model of care to true care for health and longitudinal maintenance of holistic wellbeing, ultimately delivering on better health outcomes, quality of life, and longevity. I know this new partnership between ACLM and Blue Zones will elevate our clinicians’ training even further and advance the evidence base on best practices – which is vital in helping shape the future of healthcare.”

Amanda Pears Kelly, Executive Director of the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU), said “This partnership is a powerful response to the health inequities that health center patients and so many others in underserved communities face every day. Chronic diseases disproportionately impact medically underserved communities, and we need innovative approaches and training to support our clinicians in addressing them. As a strategic partner of ACLM, we’re heartened to see them partner with Blue Zones to help improve our healthcare workforce’s readiness to combine lifestyle medicine with evidence-based population health initiatives to achieve true community transformation.”

Ann Greiner, President and CEO of the Primary Care Collaborative, said “The promise of this partnership is Americans having easier access to comprehensive, team-based care that’s focused on what really matters: keeping people healthy. We’re excited to see how the initiative evolves and look forward to exploring what the primary care community can learn from this exciting partnership.”

Betsy Price, mayor from 2011 to 2021 of Fort Worth, Texas, a Blue Zones-certified community, said “As a steadfast champion for community health and well-being, I am thrilled to see the partnership between Blue Zones and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. By merging Blue Zones’ longevity research with the evidence-based practices of lifestyle medicine, we’re laying the foundation for a future where well-being flourishes in our communities and individuals are empowered to live their healthiest, happiest lives. A community where residents have more life in their years not just years in their life!”

Amy Mechley, MD, FACLM, DipABLM, FAAFP, board chair of the American and International Boards of Lifestyle Medicine, said “This alliance between the Blue Zones, ACLM, and the American and International Boards of Lifestyle Medicine is groundbreaking. Lifestyle Medicine Global Alliance medical professional associations around the world will have the capability to tap into the power and infrastructure created by this partnership. Collectively, we will be able to reach beyond current barriers and succeed in supporting wellbeing for all human beings, regardless of geographic area, age, gender, family of origin, or culture.”

About Blue Zones®
Blue Zones employs evidence-based ways to help people live better, longer. The company’s work is rooted in explorations and research done by founder and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner in blue zones regions around the world, where people live extraordinarily long and/or happy lives. The original research and findings were released in Buettner’s bestselling books The Blue Zones Solution, The Blue Zones of Happiness, The Blue Zones, Thrive, and Blue Zones Kitchen—all published by National Geographic books. A hit docuseries, Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, was released on Netflix in 2023. Using original Blue Zones research, Blue Zones works with cities and counties to make healthy choices easier through permanent and semi-permanent changes to our human-made surroundings. Participating communities have experienced double-digit drops in obesity and tobacco use and have saved millions of dollars in healthcare costs.

About ACLM®
Serving as a transformation catalyst, disruptor of the status quo, and a galvanized force for change, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine is the nation’s medical professional society advancing the field of lifestyle medicine as the foundation of a redesigned, value-based and equitable healthcare delivery system, essential to achieving the Quintuple Aim and whole person health. ACLM represents, advocates for, trains, certifies, and equips its members to identify and eradicate the root cause of chronic disease by optimizing modifiable risk factors. ACLM is filling the gaping void of lifestyle medicine—including food as medicine—in medical education, doing so across the entire medical education continuum, while also advancing research, clinical practice and reimbursement strategies. Adding years to lives and life to years, while reining in the alarming, unsustainable trajectory of healthcare spending, is what lifestyle medicine delivers.  

Contacts

Alex Branch
ACLM Director of Communications
(email protected) 
817-307-2399

Naomi Imatome-Yun
(email protected)

SOURCE American College of Lifestyle Medicine

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