HMSA designated as Hawaii’s first Blue Zones Project Demonstration Worksite

Andy Uehara had never heard of the word moai before 2014. Now it’s his key to better health and a more fun workplace at HMSA. His moai meets every Wednesday to talk story about their families, the news, interesting stories, while participating in healthy potluck get-togethers at work. Salads and plant-based meals are encouraged, but all foods — even the sweet ones! — can be shared in moderation.

A moai is an Okinawan tradition of forming secure social networks and it’s a key piece of the Blue Zones Project® Demonstration Worksite. HMSA earned its place as Hawaii’s first company to be named a Blue Zone Project Demonstration Worksite in part by bringing ideas like the moai into the lives of its employees.

“Our staff put forward an amazing effort this year,” said Michael A. Gold, HMSA president and chief executive officer. “They put a lot of energy into creating a work environment that allows everyone at HMSA to be at their physical, mental, and emotional best.”

Blue Zones Project is a well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks. Working with Healthways Hawaii, HMSA is bringing Blue Zones Project to Hawaii. There are two components to Blue Zones Project: an employer certification and a community certification. Early next year, HMSA plans to announce three Hawaii communities that will be making a transformational change to become certified Blue Zones Communities®.

“We believe in leading by example,” said Gold. “Our employees have embraced Blue Zones Project concepts. They understand the value of taking an interest in their own health and well-being. And they’re experiencing first-hand what it means to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Now that we’ve earned our designation, we want to encourage other companies to do the same.”

HMSA made 14 company-wide changes this year to earn Blue Zones Project Demonstration Worksite designation. “We already had a fitness center for employees and we conduct wellness challenges regularly to promote weight loss, exercise, and healthy habits,” said Gold, “but we learned that there’s always room for improvement.“

The changes suggested by Blue Zones Project and implemented by HMSA included organizing a weekly farmers market for employees and the surrounding community, developing a rooftop garden where employees can learn to grow their own food, and implementing a comprehensive smoke-free policy that bans smoking in all HMSA offices statewide.

HMSA employee Brian Connors speaks proudly about the beans and tomatoes he’s growing in his garden at home. “I don’t have a huge front yard, but I prepared the ground, marked my grid, and planted around the obstacles,” said Connors. “I was trying to replicate our success in the HMSA rooftop garden and I think I’ve done pretty well.”

HMSA is now working toward becoming a certified Blue Zones Worksite® in 2015. Companies interested in becoming Blue Zones Worksites can go to hawaii.bluezonesproject.com.

About HMSA

Caring for the people of Hawaii is our promise and our privilege. Working together with employers, partners, physicians and other health care providers, we promote wellness; develop reliable, affordable health plans; and support members with clear, thoughtful guidance.

HMSA is the most experienced health plan in the state, covering more than half of Hawaii’s population. As a recognized leader, we embrace our responsibility to strengthen the health and well-being of our community.

Headquartered on Oahu with centers statewide to serve our members, HMSA is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

About Blue Zones

Blue Zones employs evidence-based ways to help people live longer, better. The Company’s work is rooted in the New York Times best-selling books The Blue Zones and Thrive - both published by National Geographic books. In 2009, Blue Zones applied the tenets of the books to Albert Lea, MN and successfully raised life expectancy and lowered health care costs for city workers by 40%. Blue Zones takes a systematic, environmental approach to well-being, which focuses on optimizing policy, building design, social networks, and the built environment. The Blue Zones Project is based on this innovative approach. For more information, visit www.bluezones.com.

About Healthways

Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) is the largest independent global provider of well-being improvement solutions. Dedicated to creating a healthier world one person at a time, the Company uses the science of behavior change to produce and measure positive change in well-being for our customers, which include employers, integrated health systems, hospitals, physicians, health plans, communities and government entities. We provide highly specific and personalized support for each individual and their team of experts to optimize each participant’s health and productivity and to reduce health-related costs. Results are achieved by addressing longitudinal health risks and care needs of everyone in a given population. The Company has scaled its proprietary technology infrastructure and delivery capabilities developed over 30 years and now serves approximately 68 million people on four continents. Learn more at www.healthways.com.

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