posted on Thursday, September 11, 2014 in Blog

Local Organizations and Community Leaders Implement a Wide Range of Environmental Improvements to Enhance the Well-Being of Residents and Achieve Community Transformation

Waterloo, Iowa (Sept. 10, 2014) — Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) and Blue Zones, LLC, today announced that Waterloo, Iowa, has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes Waterloo's community transformation through successful implementation of the 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 share in this success at a certification celebration on Thursday, September 25, 2014. The celebration will take place at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex, with an announcement taking place at 4:30 p.m.

Brought to Iowa through an innovative sponsorship by Wellmark in collaboration with Healthways and Blue Zones, the Blue Zones Project encourages all communities in the state to change their built environments to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The Blue Zones Project is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative, designed to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016.

Community leaders, volunteers and organizations throughout Waterloo 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 its efforts, Waterloo can celebrate the following outcomes:

  • The Complete Streets policy passed by city council in 2013 was named one of the top policies in the country by Smart Growth America.
  • The city adopted policies to support healthy food, beverages and vending at city-sponsored youth sporting events. Sales have remained consistent since the policies were adopted.
  • Lou Henry, Orange, Kittrell, and Irving Elementary Schools made healthy choices easier for students through Blue Zones challenge curriculum and a new lunchroom design.
    • At one school fourth and fifth grade students used the Blue Zones challenge to chart fruit and vegetable consumption as a mathematics assignment. Students reported a 33 percent increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables and a 50 percent increase in physical activity when comparing week one to week four.
    • Lou Henry experienced a 15 percent increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables after making simple changes to its lunchroom design, such as positioning fruits and vegetables more prominently.
  • Healthier dining options are now offered in 12 Blue Zones Restaurants®, including smaller portions and lower-calorie desserts. Cu Restaurant has seen a 60 percent increase in customers splitting plates and a 50 percent increase in lunchtime salad sales since servers have begun promoting those options, both suggestions from the Blue Zones Restaurant pledge.
  • From 2012 to 2013, 88 percent of employees at Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing improved their health risk factors substantially, and employees collectively lost more than 1,660 pounds.
  • New walking paths at local worksites, including Allen Memorial Hospital, John Deere Engine Works, Tyson, Veridian Credit Union and Hawkeye Community College, are encouraging employees to move naturally throughout the day.
  • More than 450 residents participated in Walking Moai groups to expand their social networks in small-group settings while getting exercise.

“The Blue Zones Project has opened many doors of opportunity for Waterloo's citizenry to live healthier, happier, longer lives,” said Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark.

“In supporting a commitment to healthy environmental changes, Waterloo has made a wise investment in its future, and I am thrilled to recognize the community's achievements,” said Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner.

Waterloo achieved Blue Zones Community status after reaching the following key milestones designed to improve the community's well-being, all of which are required improvement goals for Blue Zones Project demonstration communities seeking certification:

  • 50 percent of the top 20 identified worksites became designated Blue Zones Worksites®.
  • 25 percent of schools became designated Blue Zones Schools®.
  • 25 percent of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Restaurants.
  • 25 percent of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Grocery Stores®.
  • 20 percent of citizens committed to Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action.
  • Waterloo successfully completed the Blue Zones Community Policy® pledge, which requires the passing of local policies to promote Blue Zones Project initiatives. Examples in Waterloo include the newly passed Complete Streets policy and healthy vending policy.

“Waterloo has embraced the philosophy of creating well-being for its citizens,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. “Becoming a certified Blue Zones Community required a tremendous commitment and effort from the entire community, and we are proud of the example Waterloo has set for other Iowa communities.”

“As one of the largest and most diverse Blue Zones Project communities in Iowa, the progress made by Waterloo has been particularly exciting,” said Ben R. Leedle, Jr., Healthways president and chief executive officer. “Waterloo has clearly demonstrated its dedication to improved well-being and is highly deserving of Blue Zones Community certification. The successful promotion of healthier food options at schools and youth sporting events is particularly encouraging, as the adoption of healthy habits at a young age greatly improves the odds of higher well-being in the future.”

Fifteen Iowa communities are part of Blue Zones Project and are receiving assistance from experts to develop and implement a Blueprint for making permanent environmental, social and policy changes that transition people into healthier behaviors that can lead to longer, happier lives. Five of the communities have achieved Blue Zones Project Community certification 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 68 million people on four continents. Learn more at


Blue Zones Project

620 Mulberry Street

Waterloo, IA 50703


Tel: (319) 287-8177