Marco YMCA attains Blue Zones recognition

Cutting the ribbon makes the Blue Zones designation official.

Joining a growing group of businesses, organizations, hospitals and schools around the county, the YMCA of South Collier (Marco) is this week celebrating its "Blue Zones" recognition.

The Blue Zones Project, as it is officially known, helps these entities to "implement healthier practices in both their personal and professional lives."

Or, as Blue Zones executive David Longfield-Smith put it during a recent official ribbon cutting ceremony: it helps keep people out of the hospital by encouraging healthy living habits.

CEO of the YMCA of South Collier, Cindy Love-Abounader, reflects the excitement of the moment.

A key element of the designation is an ongoing Y collaboration with Core Health Partners, with a mission of connecting "community to clinical proven health outcome programs through strategic partnerships," according to CHP executive Paul Thein.

"(This) includes providing experts from health, wellness and the medical industry to existing health facilities and HOAs."

CHP affiliated physical therapist Angela Prodanov was on hand after the formalities.

"We have had a medically integrated service at the Y since last spring," Prodanov said, "offering nursing and nutrition services (by appointment). "Next month, we will be able to accept physicians' referrals and accept patients' insurance. Previously, it was private pay."

Earlier, Y board president Ashley Lupo welcomed the Blue Zones designation.

Board president for the YMCA of South Collier, Ashley Lupo, hands back the traditional outsize pair of scissors after the ribbon cutting. Next to her is events chair Fritzi Holmes.

"It provides access for all individuals, regardless of income," she said. "It amounts to measurable, sustainable change for the community."

CHP's Thein also unveiled a 3D body imaging system that will be available as part of the program at the Y, starting early next year.

Designed by NASA scientists, it measures bone density, body mass and overall fitness, and also provides risk analysis and risk reduction advice.

Also, earlier, Blue Zones Project's David Longfield-Smith said in an address that the initiative has grown from local to state to national and international in just five years.

"Locally, 670 organizations, schools and businesses have come aboard. The project wants to help people to implement healthier practices in both their personal and professional lives," he said.

Officially, the Blue Zones Project is described as a community-wide well-being improvement initiative to help make healthy choices easier for everyone in Southwest Florida.

For more on the Y's wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco; on Facebook @marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.