LVHN and Allentown partner to improve health, lower costs

Cris Collingwood//May 24, 2023

Aerial panorama of Allentown, Pennsylvania skyline on late sunny afternoon. Allentown is Pennsylvania's third most populous city.

LVHN and Allentown partner to improve health, lower costs

Cris Collingwood//May 24, 2023

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and the City of Allentown are launching an initiative they say will build a culture of well-being that will lead to better health, lower costs and a vitalized economy. 

Blue Zones Activate is a comprehensive initiative that uses an evidence-based approach to make healthy choices easier in all the places people spend the most time, they said.  

“We do this by encouraging sustainable changes in the built environment, building environments and social networks, often suggesting policy changes throughout a community including such places as worksites, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, faith-based communities, convenience stores and neighborhoods,” Blue Zones said in a fact sheet.  

“By helping people live longer and better through behavior change, communities can lower healthcare costs, improve productivity, access grants and funding available locally and nationally, and enjoy a higher quality of life as they live, work, learn, worship and grow,” the fact sheet said.  

The effort begins with an in-depth assessment of the Allentown area that will help determine how to make it a healthier place to live, work and thrive. 

“Lehigh Valley Health Network is committed to providing exceptional care and improving the well-being of the people in the communities we serve,” says Brian A. Nester, president and CEO, LVHN. “By partnering with Blue Zones and the city, we have an opportunity to expand our efforts in Allentown and work together to address the social determinants of health that impact our patients and their families. Together, we believe we can ultimately improve health outcomes for everyone in the community.” 

Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk said, “Blue Zones Activate marks a step forward in building a healthier and more equitable Allentown, which aligns with our vision to create a more sustainable and vibrant community. I believe that by working together with Blue Zones, LVHN and other local organizations, we can build a brighter, safer and better future for everyone in Allentown.” 

Blue Zones work is based on research and principles developed by National Geographic Fellow and New York Times bestselling author Dan Buettner, who identified the cultures of the world, or blue zones, with the healthiest, longest-living populations. 

The Blue Zones approach focuses on the single largest determinant of health, which is where people live, LVHN and the City of Allentown said. 

 Instead of focusing on just individual behavior change, Blue Zones helps communities make permanent changes to systems and surroundings so it’s easier for residents to eat wisely, move naturally and connect more with others as they move throughout their day.  

By improving the Life Radius, the area close to home where most Americans spend 90% of their lives, Blue Zones transformations have been able to dramatically improve overall population health and well-being, raise employee and student productivity, and boost economic vitality and development, according to Blue Zones. 

“We are excited to work with leaders and people in Allentown who are committed to building a community that supports healthy living,” said Blue Zones CEO Ben Leedle. “Allentown leaders are investing in well-being at the community level, which brings exponential returns as research shows improved well-being leads to healthier and happier residents, a more productive and higher-performing workforce for adults, and better student achievement for schools, colleges, and universities.”