11 Iowa Communities are Chosen to Become Blue Zones Finalists

Since the initial announcement in September 2011 by Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® and Healthways (Nasdaq: HWAY), excitement continues to build in the Blue Zones Project®.  This project is a centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016, as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.

The goal is for all Iowa communities to become Blue Zones Communities® and has been structured as a multi-round application process over five years to select 10 demonstration sites. Demonstration sites are communities in Iowa that will receive expert support to accelerate their Blue Zones transformation and serve as role models for all communities.

In the first application round (November 2011), 84 communities indicated an interest in becoming Blue Zones Project demonstration sites. Of these 84 communities, 58 were asked to submit a comprehensive application. On January 4, 2012, 54 communities submitted their applications to continue their journey to become a demonstration site.

Eleven Communities Selected for Site Visits

The applications submitted by the finalists reflected strong commitment from community leaders, local employers, and government officials, as well as prior success in collaborative community initiatives.

The 11 finalist communities in the first application round are:

Ames Clinton Muscatine Spencer
Cedar Falls Davenport Ottumwa Waterloo
Cedar Rapids Mason City Sioux City

In late February, the Blue Zones Project Team will begin visiting the 11 finalist communities in a series of site visits—which are similar to a job interview. The community will learn more about what it means to become a Blue Zones Community while the Blue Zones Project Team will have the opportunity to better understand each community’s readiness.  Site visits conclude in March and the first round of demonstration sites will be announced in May 2012.

In March, Wellmark and Healthways will announce the smaller communities that have been selected for site visits.  This will multiply the opportunities for all communities across the state from the original commitment of 10 demonstration sites to many more.

For all Iowa communities, tools will be available to help them continue their path to improved well-being. The Blue Zones Institute™ will provide leadership training and tools to help leaders transform their community, work and home environments.  “We want to encourage all Iowans to continue their journey to improve their well-being through programs such as the Blue Zones Institute,” said Mary Lawyer, Healthways state director of the Blue Zones Project. “It is important for communities to choose the path that is right for them.  Some communities may choose a self-directed approach.  Others may choose to apply to be a demonstration site in subsequent rounds.” Additionally, based on the strong response from employers in communities across the State, Wellmark and Healthways have agreed to explore an expansion of well-being improvement solutions for employers in the State of Iowa.  Details are being discussed and will be announced at a future date.