Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield chairman and CEO, John Forsyth, and Healthways President and CEO, Ben R. Leedle, Jr., today joined with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Blue Zones ® founder, Dan Buettner, to introduce Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo as the first Blue Zones Project™ demonstration site communities in Iowa. The selected communities will receive assistance from national 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. Governor Branstad said, “I’m extremely proud of the communities selected to become demonstration sites. The leaders in these communities have shown they are ready to make substantial changes to improve the environments where they live, work and play. Communities will share their experiences and successes with other communities in an effort to transform all of Iowa into a place where people live longer, healthier lives.” The Blue Zones Project is based on Blue Zones principles developed by Buettner and is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016 as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ®. Blue Zones employs evidence-based ways to help people live longer, better lives by taking a systematic, environmental approach to well-being, which focuses on optimizing policy, social networks and the built environments where people spend their time. Wellmark’s Forsyth said, “The enthusiasm and passion of Iowa communities to improve the overall health of our state is beyond exciting, and I’d like to congratulate the people of Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo. They recognize that by making comprehensive changes that address overall well-being, they are leading the way toward making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation.” The progress of the demonstration site communities will also be measured using the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents' health and well-being.
“Recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index findings reveal that despite a modest increase in overall well-being from 2010 to 2011, there is significant opportunity in Iowa for improvement in several key areas, including healthy behaviors and work environments,” said Leedle. “Selection as Blue Zones Project demonstration sites will equip Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo residents with tools to directly address each community’s specific areas of opportunity and achieve greater well-being, which should ultimately lead to lower health-related costs, increased productivity and higher economic viability.”“Through the Blue Zones Project, tools that can facilitate the journey for any community to achieving higher well-being have been made available to Iowa communities and residents state-wide,” said Blue Zones founder Buettner. In the first application round (November 2011), 84 communities indicated an interest in becoming Blue Zones Project demonstration sites. Of these 84 communities, 58 were asked to submit a comprehensive application. On January 4, 2012, 54 communities submitted their applications to continue their journey to become a demonstration site. The selection of 11 finalist communities was announced on February 10, 2012, and was followed by Blue Zones Project team site visits to each of the finalist communities in February and March. Six additional Iowa communities with populations above 10,000 will be selected as Blue Zones Project demonstration sites in the next year, for a total of 10 demonstration sites. These communities will share their learnings with other communities in Iowa that are employing Blue Zones principles. For more information on the Blue Zones Project, including details on how to become a certified Blue Zones Community, visit www.bluezonesproject.com. About Wellmark Wellmark, Inc. ( www.wellmark.com) 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 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 40 million people on four continents. Learn more at www.healthways.com. 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.com .