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December 03, 2015

WOODBINE, Iowa – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Healthways, Inc. and Blue Zones, LLC, today announced that Woodbine, Iowa, has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes Woodbine’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, and social networking to participating cities.

“We are honored to be recognized as a certified Blue Zones Community,” said Woodbine Mayor Rick Gau. “I have witnessed so much positive progress on the journey to improving well-being in our community. The ideas and passion our residents have brought to the table through the Blue Zones Project are impressive.”

Brought to Iowa through an innovative sponsorship by Wellmark, in collaboration with Healthways and Blue Zones, LLC, Blue Zones Project encourages all Iowa communities to optimize their surroundings to make healthy choices easier. Blue Zones Project is the centerpiece of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, a privately led, publicly endorsed initiative intended to inspire Iowans and communities throughout the state to boost well-being.

Community leaders, volunteers, and organizations throughout Woodbine 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, Woodbine can celebrate the following outcomes:

  • The city passed a pedestrian and bicycle master plan. This led to 16 crosswalks being repainted around the city, with priority given to areas near Woodbine Community School. The city also allocated $175,000 to add a sidewalk loop at Park Circle around Woodbine City Park.
  • Woodbine Community School rearranged the school cafeteria, leading to a 50 percent increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables and a 25 percent decrease in food waste. The school also created a Walking School Bus, enabling students to get physical movement on the way to school. A total of 132 students participated, representing 65 percent of elementary students.
  • Designated worksites in Woodbine have empowered their employees to connect with the community, enhance their well-being and move naturally. Employees at Tommy Gate logged 220 volunteer hours in just one month. Leadership staff at Thomsen Chiropractic, Farmers State Bank and Trust, Rose Vista, and NuStyle Development Corporation completed “Leading for Well-Being” modules to learn about Blue Zones Project and improve well-being at their worksites. Farmers Bank and Trust offers employees stand-sit workstations with reminders to take regular stretch breaks.
  • Local restaurant Bunkhouse Café offers outdoor dining, encouraging patrons to socialize and slow down while they dine. Their light and fresh menu draws attention to half-size portions, whole-grain ingredients and healthy sides, making the healthy selections more accessible.
  • Food Land, a local grocery store, has seen sales of bottled water triple since adding a beverage cooler and water end-cap display.

“Woodbine has embraced transformational environmental change through Blue Zones Project, and the outcomes have been exciting,” said Dan Buettner, New York Times best-selling author of “The Blue Zones” and “The Blue Zones Solution” and National Geographic Fellow. “Woodbine’s efforts are to be commended, and we look forward to seeing continued momentum with well-being improvement.”

Woodbine 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:

  • 50 percent of the top 20 identified worksites became Blue Zones Project Approved™.
  • 25 percent of schools became approved.
  • 25 percent of restaurants became approved.
  • 25 percent of grocery stores became approved.
  • 25 percent of citizens have committed to Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action.
  • The community has completed the Blue Zones Community Policy® bundle.

“We are very proud of the Woodbine community for their effort and commitment to make well-being a way of life,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. “It is very exciting to see the progress the community the size of Woodbine has made. They have set a great example for other Iowa communities, and we look forward to their continued progress.”

“Woodbine 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 is literally on the move with enhanced crosswalks and new sidewalks to keep residents in motion. Woodbine’s citizens will reap benefits from these changes for years to come.”

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

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 www.bluezones.comExternal Site.

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.