Maui News

Central Maui Selected for Blue Zones Project for Better Health

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The central Maui communities of Kahului and Wailuku have been selected as new demonstration sites for the Blue zones Project in Hawaiʻi.

The community-based well-being improvement initiative is a systematic approach that uses scientifically proven lessons of longevity, health and happiness to create vibrant communities and boost the well-being of their residents.

The project in Hawaiʻis is made possible through a partnership with HMSA.

Central Maui joins North Hawaiʻi and East Hawaiʻi on Hawaiʻi Island, as well as Koʻolaupoko on the Windward side of Oʻahu, all of which began their Blue Zones Project initiatives in 2015.

As a demonstration site, Central Maui will receive access to national expertise and will be supported by a local team of well-being consultants trained in delivering solutions for individuals and organizations.


During the three-year operating period, the program seeks to support communities in generating a critical mass of engagement and environmental change that creates a sustainable improvement in well-being.

“When we start looking at what the goals need to be for our community, it’s to be able to have a high quality life and to be able to appreciate all the blessings that we do have. Too many times, we don’t see all the beauty that’s around us because we’re too engrossed in surviving. Surviving is not the goal. Being able to appreciate the quality of life that we have truly is, and Blue Zones Project fits hand in glove with what we want to be able to accomplish,” said Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa during Tuesday’s press conference at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui Culinary Academy’s Class Act restaurant.

“I might be biased, but I think Maui is very special and unique. I’m a Maui girl, Wailuku girl, all my life and with so many kamaaina moving home – all these young families, my friends coming home and my family here – now is the time. I think we are on the cusp of greatness. We’ve done so much already on Maui island-wide that I thought Central Maui would be the perfect Blue Zones community,” added Ashley Takitani Leahey, who led Central Maui’s application.

Central Maui was one of several applicants that went through a competitive selection process over the summer to become Hawaiʻi’s next Blue Zones Project demonstration site. The community showed exceptional strength overall in the following areas:

• Strong sense of community and ability to organize and collaborate with all sectors in a short amount of time;
• Strong commitment and readiness to carry out the scope of work involved in becoming a certified Blue Zones Community;
• Excellent understanding of Blue Zones Project concepts and what it means for the community; and
• Outstanding leadership and engagement from all sectors, along with a strong foundation for developing new initiatives and building upon current initiatives.


“There were a lot of reasons Central Maui had such a wonderful application. It was partly because of the work that Mayor Arakawa had done in revitalizing the community, working with community organizations like the YMCA,” said Michael A. Gold, HMSA’s chief executive officer. “It was also because of the work and the spirit from everyone who put the application together, showing us what Maui can do.”

A vital part of HMSA’s commitment to improving the health of all of Hawaiʻi, Blue Zones Project was brought to the state through an innovative sponsorship by HMSA, in collaboration with Healthways and Blue Zones, LLC.

Based on principles developed by Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author of “The Blue Zones” and “The Blue Zones Solution,” Blue Zones Project is designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to the built environment, policy and social networks. Outcomes are measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.

“Hawaiʻi is a vibrant place with many opportunities for active living, and what we’re doing through Blue Zones Project provides the extra nudge that makes the healthy choice nearly inevitable,” said Buettner. “When the environment supports healthy choices, individuals can make significant improvements to their well-being without even realizing it. By partnering with HMSA, we are tailoring Blue Zones principles to Hawaii’s communities and culture to have an even stronger impact.”

Mayor Arakawa and Leahey will be flying to Oʻahu today, for the public unveiling of all communities selected for Blue Zones Project Hawaiʻi this year. The statewide press event will be held at Café Julia in downtown Honolulu this afternoon.



Central Maui will now begin building leadership teams and committees that will work with schools, grocery stores, restaurants, worksites, faith-based organizations, and policy leaders in tobacco, food, and built environment to make the healthy choice the easy choice in their community. A community kick-off celebration for the general public will be held later this year to officially launch Blue Zones Project and introduce the Blue Zones Power 9 principles.

“We are looking forward to working with Central Maui to help enhance quality of life, and tackle some of the health challenges we face, such as diabetes and obesity,” said Michael Acker, general manager of Blue Zones Project. “To date, we have over 200 organizations and more than 4,000 individuals involved with Blue Zones Project throughout Hawaiʻi. Thanks to HMSA, we are able to expand our efforts in bringing this nationally-recognized well-being initiative to thousands more of our children, family, friends, neighbors, and organizations.”

For more information on Blue Zones Project in Hawaiʻi, or to learn how to participate, visit

Blue Zones Project is a community well-being improvement initiative designed to change the way people experience the world around them.

Project leaders say that by impacting the environment, policy, and social networks, Blue Zones Project makes healthy choices easier. As a result they say, people can live longer, better, and communities can lower healthcare costs, improve productivity, and boost national recognition as a great place to live, work, and play.

Maui Bicycling League Members Attend Event Announcing Blue Zones Project in Central Maui

Six members of Maui Bicycling League attended Tuesday’s Blue Zones Project press conference and reception to celebrate the selection of Central Maui as a Blue Zones Project site.

“This is great news for our community. We are especially delighted that Blue Zones Project works to create environments where walking and bicycling are encouraged,” said Anne Rillero, Maui Bicycling League Board Member and Secretary. “This aligns with our vision at Maui Bicycling League to make Maui more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, so that our keiki can safely walk or pedal to school, our adults can get to work, shopping and recreational activities without cars, and our seniors can travel safely without driving.”

Maui Bicycling League recently celebrated its second anniversary as a nonprofit all-volunteer organization. The organization advocates for safer bikeways and bike paths, working closely with state and county officials, local landowners, other nonprofits and the community. Maui Bicycling League also offers educational programs to encourage safer bicycling and safe vehicle operation around cyclists, as well as group rides and bicycle-related events for families and individuals.

“We are grateful to the Wailuku Community Association for their hard work and dedication in bringing Blue Zones Project to Central Maui,” remarked Saman Dias, Chair of Maui Bicycling League. “We believe the Blue Zones Project will create a better quality of life for Maui residents and applaud its launch here in Central Maui.”

Blue Zones Project Maui Press Conference. (L to R) Michael A. Gold, HMSA’s chief executive officer; Ashley Takitani Leahey; and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.

Blue Zones Project Maui Press Conference

Blue Zones Project Maui Press Conference

From Left to Right Maui Bicycling League Members Sharyl Boren, Sookie Kunst MBL Steering committee members Frank De Rego, Sandra Hoapili McGuinness and Anne Rillero


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