posted on Friday, January 24, 2014 in Blog

City Successfully Implements Wide Range of Improvements to Achieve Higher Well-Being

Cedar Falls, Iowa – January 22, 2014 – Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield®, Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) and Blue Zones, LLC, today announced that Cedar Falls, Iowa, has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes Cedar Falls' successful implementation of the Blue Zones Project®, a first-of-its-kind population health program that focuses on making long-lasting upgrades to the living environment. It brings the world’s best practices in food policy, built environment, purpose and social networking to participating cities.

Community leaders, volunteers and organizations throughout Cedar Falls have been working to reach this milestone since May 2012, when the community was named one of the first Blue Zones Project demonstration sites in Iowa. As a result of their efforts, Cedar Falls can celebrate the following outcomes:

  • Completion of a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge, Mayor's Bridge, across Highway 58, connecting the industrial park, where approximately 7,000 people work, with the approximately 5,000 residents who live on the other side of the bridge.
  • Approximately $500,000 spent to expand sidewalks and trails, connecting more of the community than ever before. New sidewalks were completed along Angie Drive from 3rd Street to Crescent Drive, making it safer for students to walk to and from school.
  • Cedar Falls Community Schools earned a second Physical Education Program Grant valued at $1.3 million in part through its implementation of Blue Zones Project principles and other initiatives.
  • Local businesses increased their revenue by adopting Blue Zones Project principles. For example, the Hy-Vee College Square location noted an increase in sales of healthy items:
    • Healthy beverage sales associated with Blue Zones Project checkout lanes increased by 4,840 units, or 122%, in a three-month period.
    • Produce sales increased by 15.8%, with weekly sales of fruits and vegetables sold at the salad bar increasing up to 25%.
  • The University of Northern Iowa increased the number of water stations on campus from two to 45, with more than 350,000 water servings dispensed during the 2013 fall semester. Local employer John Deere PEC installed three new stations and has dispensed 86,000 servings.
  • Cedar Falls in collaboration with Waterloo saw more than 9,500 residents volunteer in 2013, an increase of 700 volunteers from 2012. The volunteers contributed more than 49,000 volunteer hours.

“Cedar Falls has enjoyed excellent economic performance in the last year, including a reduction in unemployment to less than 3 percent, the creation of more than 200 new jobs – many of them high tech, nearly $80 million in building permits and the sale price of single family housing up 8.6 percent. We feel strongly that this performance trend will only be enhanced by the continued Blue Zones Project work in Cedar Falls. A healthier community makes us a more attractive place to live and work,” said Cedar Falls Mayor Jon Crews.

“Cedar Falls is the consummate example that an American city, given the right tools, can dramatically increase its own quality of life by taking an environmental approach to well-being improvement,” said Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner.

All community members are invited to celebrate the success, hear from leaders in the community, and recognize the hard work completed towards improved well-being in a Certification Celebration:

Thursday, January 30

4:30 p.m. – 6:00p.m. (Program at 5 p.m.)

Cedar Falls Community Center

528 Main St.


All day Thursday, Jan. 30: “Better with Blue Zones Project Day” – wear your Blue Zones Project t-shirt or anything blue to celebrate!

Cedar Falls achieved Blue Zones Community status after the city made well-being improvements across the community, reaching the following key milestones:

  • 50% of the top 20 identified worksites became designated Blue Zones Worksites®.
  • 25% of schools became designated Blue Zones Schools®.
  • 25% of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Restaurants®.
  • 25% of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Grocery Stores®.
  • 20% of citizens committed to the Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action.
  • The community successfully completed the Blue Zones Community Policy® bundle.


“Cedar Falls has done a tremendous amount of work to transform their community and make living healthy a way of life,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. “This achievement is no small task. Cedar Falls should be commended for leading and inspiring other Iowa communities to take care of their citizens now and into the future.”

The Blue Zones Project is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative, designed to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016. This status is measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® (WBI), the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents' health and well-being. 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 change their built environments to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

While Cedar Falls has one of the highest WBI scores in the country, the community showed an increase in well-being from 2012 to 2013 of nearly one point. Each point in well-being improvement equates to a statistically significant decrease in the likelihood of hospital admission and emergency room visits.

For a community, the achievement of higher well-being for its citizens yields competitive advantage for economic development and job creation. For employers, it means greater productivity and better health in the workforce and dependent families, resulting in better business performance. For individuals, it simply means living well, longer.

“Clearly, Cedar Falls has demonstrated its dedication to improved well-being and is well deserving of Blue Zones Community certification,” said Ben R. Leedle, Jr., Healthways president and chief executive officer. “The policies and programs implemented in the community have already resulted in immediate, tangible benefits, and the Blue Zones Project will also lead to sustained, long-term well-being transformation for individuals as well as the broader Cedar Falls community.”


Fifteen Iowa communities are currently part of the Blue Zones Project and are positively influencing statewide WBI measurement outcomes to date. For more information please visit

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

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 45 million people on four continents. Learn more at

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