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August 19, 2015

OSKALOOSA, Iowa — Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Healthways, Inc. (NASDAQ: HWAY), and Blue Zones, LLC, today announced that Oskaloosa, Iowa, has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes Oskaloosa’s community transformation through successful implementation of 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 changes made in Oskaloosa through Blue Zones Project have brought vibrancy and vitality to our community,” said Oskaloosa Mayor David Krutzfeldt. “We are thankful for the dedication of so many local volunteers who supported this effort and are proud to now be named a certified Blue Zones Community."

Brought to Iowa through an innovative sponsorship by Wellmark in collaboration with Healthways and Blue Zones®, Blue Zones Project initiative encourages all Iowa communities to optimize their surroundings to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Blue Zones Project is the centerpiece of Iowa’s Healthiest State InitiativeSM, 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 Oskaloosa have been working to achieve certification status since February 2014, when the community was named a Blue Zones Project demonstration site. The status was met after reaching the following key milestones, all of which are required improvement goals for Blue Zones Project demonstration communities to receive certification:

  • 50 percent of the top 20 identified worksites became designated Blue Zones Worksites®. A total of 12 worksites have been named Blue Zones Worksites, 11 of those in the top 20.
  • 25 percent of schools became designated Blue Zones Schools®. One school has been named a Blue Zones School.
  • 25 percent of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Restaurants®. A total of three restaurants have been named Blue Zones Restaurants.
  • 25 percent of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Grocery Stores®. A total of two grocery stores have been named Blue Zones Grocery Stores.
  • 20 percent of citizens have committed to Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action. More than 2,130 individuals have taken Blue Zones Personal Pledge and completed an action.
  • The community has successfully completed Blue Zones Community Policy® bundle.

"By implementing healthy environmental changes across the community, Oskaloosa has shown their dedication to well-being improvement,” said Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner. “I am thrilled to recognize the community’s achievements and look forward to following the continued positive progress."

As a result of its efforts, Oskaloosa can celebrate the following outcomes:

  • The City of Oskaloosa passed an ordinance that made farmers’ markets accessible and community gardens possible on public property. The farmers’ market has since evolved from a sidewalk event to a closed-street event in the square. In 2015, 23 new plots were added to four community gardens, an estimated increase of 28,072 square feet.
  • The Oskaloosa Community School District added an additional $7,000 to the food budget to account for the increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables across all three schools.
  • Restaurants are seeing increased sales of healthy menu items including:
    • Hunters Café has seen sales increase by 45 percent for lentil soup, 15 percent for the grilled cheese & pear sandwich, and 5 percent for the carrot walnut sandwich.
    • A 29 percent increase in sales of the berry mandarin salad at Grate Expectations Café. They have also seen an 11 percent increase in customers opting for the healthier side of fruit.
    • A 20 percent increase in black bean burger sales at On The Green.
  • Mahaska Health Partnership saw a 12 percent increase in health risk assessment participants, a 15 percent increase in biometric screening participants, and a 171 percent increase in wellness program offerings.
  • MidwestOne Bank has seen soda consumption in vending machines decrease by 32 percent and water consumption increase by 176 percent.
  • Grocery stores in Oskaloosa are seeing increased sales of healthy options:
    • Oskaloosa Fareway has seen produce sales increase by 28 percent, frozen produce sales increase by 17 percent, water sales increase by 38 percent, and soda sales decrease by 2 percent.
    • Oskaloosa Hy-Vee has seen sales of quinoa increase by 49 percent and sales of goat products (cheese, milk and yogurt) increase by 1,873 percent.
  • More than 220 individuals joined a Walking Moai, building friendships while moving naturally, while 355 individuals attended a Purpose Workshop and more than 550 individuals attended a Blue Zones Project cooking class.

"Oskaloosa has embraced the philosophy of creating well-being for its citizens,"said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. "We commend the community for working together to achieve Blue Zones Community status and serving as an example for other Iowa communities."

"Oskaloosa has seen early progress in many areas across the entire community that support lifting well-being," said Katrina Worlund, Healthways senior vice president, Blue Zones Project. "Their dedication to these environmental changes will continue to pay off for generations."

Oskaloosa is planning a celebration later this summer to recognize the efforts of the entire community in becoming a certified Blue Zones Community.

Fifteen Iowa communities are currently part of 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.