On May 4, 2012, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield chairman and CEO, John Forsyth, and Healthways President and CEO, Ben R. Leedle, Jr., joined with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Blue Zones® founder Dan Buettner to introduce Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo as the first Blue Zones Project™ demonstration site communities in Iowa.
The selected communities will receive assistance from the Blue Zones Project’s national experts to develop and implement a blueprint for making permanent environmental, social, and policy changes that transition people into healthier behaviors that can lead to longer, happier lives.
The Blue Zones Project is based on Blue Zones principles developed by Buettner and is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016 as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®. Blue Zones employs evidence-based ways to help people live longer, better lives by taking a systematic, environmental approach to well-being, which focuses on optimizing policy, social networks, and the built environments where we spend our time. Through the Blue Zones Project, tools to help Iowans achieve higher well-being have been made available to Iowa communities and residents state-wide.
The progress of the demonstration site communities will be measured using the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents' health and well-being.
Recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index findings reveal that despite a modest increase in overall well-being from 2010 to 2011, there is significant opportunity in Iowa for improvement in several key areas, including healthy behaviors and work environments. Selection as Blue Zones Project demonstration sites will equip Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo residents with tools to directly address each community’s specific areas of opportunity and achieve greater well-being, which should ultimately lead to lower health-related costs, increased productivity and higher economic viability.
Six additional Iowa communities with populations above 10,000 will be selected as Blue Zones Project demonstration sites in the next year, for a total of 10 demonstration sites. These communities will share their learnings with other communities in Iowa that are employing Blue Zones principles.
Congrats once again to the leaders in these four communities! Each has shown they are ready to make substantial changes to improve the environments where they live, work and play, and agreed to share their experiences and successes with other communities in an effort to transform all of Iowa into a place where people live longer, healthier lives.