Member Spotlight: Kona Community Hospital Named First Blue Zones Project Approved Hospital on Hawai‘i Island

Business First! Pau Hana

Kona Community Hospital (KCH) celebrates their recognition as the first hospital to become Blue Zones Project Approved™ on Hawai‘i Island and second in the state. Their approval is two-fold, as the hospital is being recognized as a Blue Zones Project Approved™ worksite and restaurant.

Brought to Hawaii through an innovative sponsorship by HMSA, Blue Zones Project® is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to lifestyle, environment, policy, and social networks. Since being designated as a demonstration community in 2017, nearly 2,300 West Hawaii residents have engaged with the initiative and celebrated 16 worksites, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and faith-based organizations that have become Blue Zones Project Approved.

Kona Community Hospital is a full-service acute care hospital, proudly serving the West Hawaii community for over 100 years. KCH includes over 400 highly skilled employees and 100 medical staff practitioners, and is one of the largest employers in West Hawaii. Through the approval process, KCH encouraged employee engagement in four focus areas, including awareness, nutrition, activity and wellbeing, indicated Judy Donovan, Marketing and Strategic Planning Director. “The Blue Zones Project allows us to adopt best practices that are a great fit for KCH.”

Kona Community Hospital achieved Blue Zones Project Approved status by successfully adopting best practices that promote well-being, including: Encouraging walking and/or standing meetings; Hosting a Purpose Workshop and a health fair; Offering employer-sanctioned fitness activities like yoga and hot hula; and improving food offerings for staff at Ginger Café.

Ginger Café, a Blue Zones Project Approved™ restaurant, now features three Blue Zones Project Inspired Dishes - MaPou Tofu Vegetable Stew, Vegetable Quinoa and Tofu Vegetable Stir Fry. The Café has improved their menu by creating an electronic message board to better highlight healthy food options. Also new to Ginger Café is its new compostable dishes, as the hospital phased out all Styrofoam.

KCH strives to be a community leader by implementing initiatives that impact the health and well-being of employees and community members in a positive way. Achieving this accomplishment reflects the dedication of KCH to making changes that empower people to live healthier. “At Kona Community Hospital, we’re very proud to be the first hospital on Hawai‘i Island to be dual certified as a Blue Zones Project worksite and restaurant. Because we’re committed to promoting health and wellness of our employees and our community, we’ve embraced the Project’s philosophies to support a healthy on-campus environment,” says Jay Kreuzer, CEO of Kona Community Hospital and the West Hawaii Region of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.

About HMSA

Caring for the people of Hawaii is our promise and our privilege. Working with employers, providers, government decision makers, and consumers, we aim to reach our Māhie vision of a community health system: a system to support the many health and well-being programs and projects that are already underway in our state. We reach out to people where they live, learn, work, and play, so we can empower each and every person to take control of their own health and well-being. HMSA is the most experienced health plan in the state, covering more than half of Hawaii’s population. As a recognized leader, we have a commitment to develop reliable, affordable health plans; support members with clear, thoughtful guidance; and embrace our responsibility to strengthen the health and well-being of our community.

About Blue Zones Project

Blue Zones Project® is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city’s environment, policy, and social networks. Established in 2010, Blue Zones Project is inspired by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five regions of the world—or Blue Zones®—with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older. Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner’s findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being. Currently, 42 communities in nine states have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 3.3 million Americans nationwide. The movement includes three beach cities in California; 15 cities in Iowa; Albert Lea, Minnesota; the city of Fort Worth; and communities in Southwest Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Blue Zones Project is a division of Sharecare. For more information, visit bluezonesproject.com.

Photo Captions

Photo #1: KCH employee group celebrating the Blue Zones Project achievement at Ginger Café, the hospital’s cafeteria and newest Blue Zones Project Approved Restaurant on April 11.