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April 01, 2015

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa — Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Healthways, Inc. (NASDAQ: HWAY), and Blue Zones, LLC, today announced that Spirit Lake, Iowa, has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes Spirit Lake’s community transformation through 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.

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 optimize their surroundings to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The Blue Zones Project is the centerpiece of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, a privately led, publicly endorsed initiative intended to inspire Iowans and their communities throughout the state to improve their well-being.

Community leaders, volunteers and organizations throughout Spirit Lake have been working to achieve certification status since October 2012, when the community was named a Blue Zones Project demonstration site. As a result of its efforts, Spirit Lake can celebrate the following outcomes:

  • A total of $1.2 million was invested in upgrading Memorial Park, which averages 200 visitors a day. Upgrades include a walking path around the entire park and a new splash pad.
  • The K-8 Healthy Snack Cart Program, which encourages smart snack choices, has helped schools report a 25 percent increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • From 2012 to 2014, following the formation of a wellness committee, Lakes Regional Health Care increased YMCA memberships from 22 percent of employees to 45 percent; bettered employee cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure; and increased productivity by 30 percent.
  • Pure Fishing now hosts employee gardens and will transform 6.5 acres to native prairie and a pond the entire community can enjoy.
  • Local restaurant Hey, Good Cookies! now offers half size portions, an option that represents about a third of lunch sales. Three additional designated restaurants, Hy-Vee Kitchen, Prairie Chick and Rabab’s Neighborhood Bistro, also offer Blue Zones Project-approved healthy dishes and promote healthy side options.
  • New city policies are paving the way for healthy eating through farmers’ markets and community gardens.

"I am so proud of the entire Blue Zones Project Spirit Lake team. Every committee member, volunteer, business partner and our entire community worked together to become a certified Blue Zones Community. It is certainly an honor for Spirit Lake to achieve this great milestone,” said Spirit Lake Mayor Blain Andera.

"Leaders and volunteers in Spirit Lake have embraced the Blue Zones model and worked together toward this common goal for more than two years,” said Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner. "We applaud their efforts and look forward to the continued focus on well-being improvement.”

Spirit Lake achieved Blue Zones Community status after reaching the following key milestones, all of which are required improvement goals for Blue Zones Project demonstration communities to receive certification:

  • Fifty percent of the top 20 identified worksites became designated Blue Zones Worksites®.
  • Twenty-five percent of schools became designated Blue Zones Schools®.
  • Twenty-five percent of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Restaurants®.
  • Twenty-five percent of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Grocery Stores®.
  • Twenty percent of citizens have committed to the Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action.
  • The community has successfully completed the Blue Zones Community Policy® bundle.

"To see a community the size of Spirit Lake achieve Blue Zones Community status is incredible,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. "This significant achievement required tremendous commitment and effort from the entire community. We commend Spirit Lake for making well-being a way of life and for setting a great example for Iowa communities of their size.”

"Spirit Lake has demonstrated its dedication to improved well-being and is well deserving of Blue Zones Community certification,” said Katrina Worlund, Healthways senior vice president, Blue Zones Project. "This community has seen positive results through upgrades to parks and trails and Spirit Lake’s citizens will reap these benefits for years to come.”

Fifteen Iowa communities are currently part of the Blue Zones Project and are positively influencing statewide outcomes to date, as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. For more information, please visit www.bluezonesproject.comExternal Site.