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September 21, 2015

Marion, Iowa — Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Healthways, Inc. (NASDAQ: HWAY), and Blue Zones, LLC, today announced that Marion, Iowa, has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes Marion’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 community is invited to celebrate this accomplishment and recognize the efforts of the entire community at the Swamp Fox Festival on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. at Lowe Park.

“We are honored to be recognized as a certified Blue Zones Community,” said Marion Mayor Snooks Bouska. “I have seen so much positive progress in the past year and a half toward improving well-being in Marion. The ideas and passion our residents have brought to the table through Blue Zones Project are impressive.”

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. 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 Marion have been working to achieve certification status since January 2013, when the community was named a Blue Zones Project demonstration site. Certification was achieved by meeting the following Blue Zones Project requirements:

  • 50 percent of the top 20 identified worksites became designated Blue Zones Worksites®. A total of 13 worksites have been named Blue Zones Worksites, 10 of those in the top 20.
  • 25 percent of schools became designated Blue Zones Schools®. A total of six schools have been named Blue Zones Schools.
  • 25 percent of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Restaurants®. A total of nine restaurants have been name Blue Zones Restaurants.
  • 25 percent of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Grocery Stores®. A total of two grocery stores have been named Blue Zone Grocery Stores.
  • 20 percent of citizens have committed to Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action. More than 6,045 individuals have taken the Blue Zones Personal Pledge and completed an action.
  • The community has successfully completed the Blue Zones Community Policy® bundle.

“Marion has shown a dedication to the vision of healthier, longer lives through making healthy choices easier for citizens,” said Blue Zones Founder Dan Buettner. “I applaud their efforts, particularly the swift, positive progress toward tobacco-free parks.”

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

  • The City of Marion secured a $350,000 Artplace America grant to implement the Imagine Art in the Alleys project — inspired by Blue Zones Project — to bring vitality, life, art, and people together to enhance social well-being.
  • The newly passed nicotine-free parks ordinance, one of the first of its kind in the state, prohibits smoking, tobacco, and nicotine use in parks, recreational facilities, and along trails.
  • Linn-Mar increased the fruit and vegetable budget by more than 20 percent in the past two years.
  • At Novak Elementary, the percentage of 10-year-old girls in the Healthy Fitness Zone went up from 48 percent to 84 percent and from 28 to 58 percent for 12-year-old boys from December 2014 to June 2015.
  • Access to healthy vending options are improving in Marion worksites. Marion Process Solutions now offers 50 percent healthy options in their vending machines while Farmers State Bank offers 65 percent healthy options.
  • At Berthel Fisher & Company, 88 percent of employees reported a sense of belonging at work and 97 percent have been involved or plan to be involved in well-being activities.
  • ESCO Group saw a 33 percent increase in biometric screening participation while Marion Process Solution created a wellness committee and increased wellness activity participation by 30 percent.
  • Fareway added 16 linear feet of shelving for produce in June 2014 while Hy-Vee noted an 11 percent increase in produce sales last year.
  • Hy-Vee eliminated sugar-sweetened beverages from a checkout lane cooler, replacing them with water. They estimate water sales from checkout lane coolers have increased by 80 percent in the last year.
  • More than 410 individuals joined a Walking Moai, building friendships while moving naturally.
  • More than 575 individuals attended a Sunrise Yoga session, a new event that encourages residents to downshift and move naturally.
  • More than 300 citizens attended one of 19 Blue Zones Project cooking classes, learning new skills while trying new recipes.
  • More than 270 individuals have volunteered more than 2,050 hours to support Blue Zones Project in Marion.

“We are proud of the citizens of Marion for their effort and commitment to make well-being a way of life,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. “The policies and programs implemented in the community serve as wonderful examples for other Iowa communities.”

“We know that communities with greater well-being have lower health care costs, higher productivity, and are recognized among the best places to live, work, and play,” said Katrina Worlund, Healthways senior vice president, Blue Zones Project. “With a strong focus on well-being improvement throughout the community, Marion has proven they are dedicated to the health of their residents along with the economic and social vitality of the community.”

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.

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 Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, The Blue Zones and Thrive—all published by National Geographic books. Since 2009, Blue Zones has applied the tenets of the books to communities and corporations across the U.S. and has successfully raised life expectancy and lowered health care costs while bringing down smoking and obesity rates. Blue Zones takes a systematic, environmental approach to well-being, which focuses on optimizing policy, building design, social networks, and the built environment. Blue Zones Project is based on this innovative approach. For more information, visit www.bluezones.comExternal Site. Blue Zones Project®, Blue Zones Community®, Blue Zones Worksites®, Blue Zones Schools®, Blue Zones Restaurants®, Blue Zones Grocery Stores®, Blue Zones Community Policy® and Moai® are trademarks of Blue Zones, LLC.

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 www.healthways.comExternal Site. Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is a registered trademark of Gallup, Inc. and Healthways, Inc.  All rights reserved.