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Mason City Achieves Certified Blue Zones Community Status

Local Organizations and Community Leaders Successfully Implement a Wide Range of Environmental Improvements to Enhance the Well-Being of Residents

June 12, 2014

Mason City, Iowa – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) and Blue Zones, LLC, today announced that Mason City, Iowa, has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes Mason City’s successful implementation of the Blue Zones Project®, a first-of-its-kind population health program that brings the world's best practices in food policy, built environment, purpose and social networking to participating cities.


The Mason City community is invited to celebrate its success in a certification celebration on Friday, June 20, 2014. The celebration will take place at the Friday Night Live event with an announcement and ribbon cutting taking place at 6:00 p.m. in Central Park.


Brought to Iowa through an innovative sponsorship by Wellmark in collaboration with Healthways and Blue Zones, the Blue Zones Project initiative encourages all Iowa communities to change their built environments to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The Blue Zones Project is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative, designed to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016


Community leaders, volunteers and organizations throughout Mason City have been working to achieve certification status since May 2012, when the community was named one of Iowa’s first Blue Zones Project demonstration sites. As a result of its efforts, Mason City can celebrate the following outcomes:

  • Passing a Complete Streets policy and a comprehensive Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan by the City Council as part of “Activating Mason City” plan. The City Council approved the master plan and committed $1.8 million to fund the first five years of recommended projects within one fiscal year.
  • Allocating $150,000 in 2014 for a pavement markings program, which will create bike lanes, shared lane markings and street crossing markings.
  • Completing the new trail extension on South Taft Street to connect worksites and residents to retail businesses, a university branch, banking and a grocery store.
  • Increasing produce sales at the two Mason City Hy-Vee stores by 14 percent between 2012 and 2013, and generating an aggregate increase of 21 percent since 2011. Water promotions at both Hy-Vee stores increased average water sales by nearly 12 percent from 2012 to 2013.
  • Securing a $25,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation to fund the Youth Task Force’s installation of exercise stations in city parks.
  • Promoting healthier environments for school children by applying reinforcing principles at fundraisers, replacing those that included sales of unhealthy foods. For example, at a district-wide Walk-a-Thon, two weeks of fundraising culminated in a unique celebration at each school, complete with a walk, music, healthy snack and other physical activities. Lincoln Intermediate was the first school in Mason City to move completely to healthy fundraisers, experiencing a 50 percent increase in student participation in the process.
  • Expanding public gardens through the addition of the Willow Creek garden, a 25 percent expansion of the Garden Acres garden and additional square feet added to the Community Kitchen of North Iowa garden.

“The last few years have resulted in a significant culture change across our entire community, and the Blue Zones Project has been a driving force in our River City Renaissance,” said Mason City Mayor Eric Bookmeyer. “It provided the format for the collaboration of our whole town in developing the Activating Mason City Master Plan, and then built the will to implement it. That, along with the work on other city policies and within our community by schools, worksites, organizations and individuals, has been nothing short of transformational. The work of the Blue Zones Project will benefit all of our citizens well into the future.”


“Mason City is the consummate example that an American city, given the right tools, can dramatically increase its own quality of life by taking an environmental approach to well-being improvement,” said Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner.


Mason City achieved Blue Zones Community status after reaching the following key milestones, all of which are required improvement goals for Blue Zones Project demonstration communities seeking certification:


  • 50 percent of the top 20 identified worksites became designated Blue Zones Worksites®.
  • 25 percent of schools became designated Blue Zones Schools®.
  • 25 percent of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Restaurants®.
  • 25 percent of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Grocery Stores®.
  • 20 percent of citizens committed to the Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action.
  • Successfully completed the Blue Zones Community Policy® bundle.


“Mason City has transformed itself to make well-being a way of life,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. “This required a tremendous effort from the entire community. We commend Mason City for setting a great example of how to take care of its citizens now and into the future for all communities in Iowa.”


“Clearly, Mason City has demonstrated its dedication to improved well-being and is well deserving of Blue Zones Community certification,” said Ben R. Leedle, Jr., Healthways president and chief executive officer. “The policies and programs implemented in the community have already resulted in immediate, tangible benefits such as the new bicycle and pedestrian plan that will make healthy choices easier in Mason City for years to come.”


Fifteen Iowa communities are currently part of the Blue Zones Project and are positively influencing statewide Well-Being Index measurement outcomes to date. For more information, please visit


About Wellmark

Wellmark, Inc. ( does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than 2 million members in Iowa and South Dakota. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. are independent licensees 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


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


Contact Wellmark Media Relations

Traci McBee
Phone: 515-376-4338


Teresa Roof
Phone: 515-376-5869


1331 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309-2901

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