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February 03, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa — (Feb. 3, 2016) — Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Healthways, Inc., and Blue Zones, LLC today announced that Iowa City, Iowa, has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes Iowa City’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 public is invited to celebrate this accomplishment and recognize the efforts of the entire community at the Iowa City Freeze Festival at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20 at Terry Trueblood Recreation Center, located at 4213 Sand Road SE.

“We are honored to be recognized as a certified Blue Zones Community,” said Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton. “Iowa City is continually innovating to improve the health of our citizens and this Project has been a catalyst, stimulating new ideas and efforts.”

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 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 Iowa City have been working to achieve certification status since January 2014. 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 16 worksites have been named Blue Zones Worksites, with 12 of those in the top 20.
  • 25 percent of schools became designated Blue Zones Schools®, with a total of five schools achieving designation.
  • 25 percent of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Restaurants®, with a total of 23 restaurants earning the recognition.
  • 25 percent of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Grocery Stores®, with a total of four grocery stores 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 12,100 individuals have taken the Blue Zones Personal Pledge and taken action to improve their well-being.
  • The community has successfully completed the Blue Zones Community Policy® bundle.

“Iowa City has put a strategic emphasis on improving well-being across the entire community,” said Blue Zones founder and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner. “They are leading the way on many key determinants of a long, healthy life and I applaud them for this achievement.”

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

  • In July 2015, Iowa City passed the state’s first e-cigarette ordinance that bans their use in the same places where state and local laws prohibit smoking tobacco products.
  • Updates along Sycamore Street include two new roundabouts, an additional 1.2 miles of sidewalk and an extra mile of bike lane to improve bike and pedestrian access to Alexander Elementary School.
  • Third grade through sixth grade students at Lincoln Elementary completed the Blue Zones Challenge and saw a 53 percent increase in consumption of daily servings of fruits and vegetables, a 58 percent increase in physical activity, an 18 percent decrease in servings of sugar-sweetened beverages, and a 34 percent decrease in screen time.
  • In spring 2015, 67 percent of girls and 63 percent of boys in the Iowa City Community School District had a healthy BMI, up from 65 percent and 60 percent respectively in the fall of 2014.
  • An annual step challenge between local employers Mercy Iowa City, Pearson and ACT involved 133 participants who logged 89,515 minutes of exercise over 10 weeks.
  • 25 percent of customers at NODO restaurant now opt for healthy, Blue Zones-inspired side options.
  • Produce sales at one Hy-Vee grocery store increased by 215 percent from 2014 to 2015 due to a 22,000 square-foot expansion in the produce section. The store now also has a full-time dietitian who offers in-store tours and plant-based cooking classes.
  • Bread Garden Market eliminated sugar-sweetened beverages completely from checkout lane coolers and added nearly 30 feet to the produce section in 2015.
  • Nearly 2,500 citizens joined a Walking Moai, moving naturally and increasing social connections while enjoying new local parks and trails.
  • More than 250 people attended a Purpose Workshop to discover their passion and deepen their sense of purpose.

“Iowa City should be proud of the amount of work they have invested to make the pursuit of well-being a way of life,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. “The policies and programs implemented in the community serve as great examples for other Iowa communities. We congratulate Iowa City on achieving Blue Zones Community status.”

“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. “Iowa City has proven its dedication to the health of its residents, and we look forward to their continued work and focus on well-being improvement in the community.”

Fifteen Iowa communities are currently part of the Blue Zones Project and are positively influencing statewide well-being outcomes, 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. Blue Cross®, Blue Shield® and the Cross® and Shield® symbols are registered trademarks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an Association of Independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. Wellmark® is a registered trademark of Wellmark, Inc.


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.