Cedar Rapids will not be one of the first Blue Zones demonstration sites in Iowa, but Cedar Falls and Waterloo were announced this morning as among the lucky four.
Mason City and Spencer also will receive expert help to transform into Blue Zones Communities, with the goal for residents to live longer, healthier lives.
The project is a main component of Iowa’s healthiest state initiative, an effort to make Iowa – now 16th – the nation’s healthiest state under the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index by 2016.
Doing so could save the state up to $16 billion over five years in health care costs and lost productivity.
Cedar Rapids was one of 11 finalists to compete to be a demonstration site. Others besides the four chosen included Ames, Clinton, Davenport, Muscatine, Ottumwa and Sioux City.
Chosen communities will receive expert advice to help improve their residents’ emotional, physical and social health through environmental and policy changes.
Blue Zones hires experts who provide blue prints and best practices to transform work sites, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, community policy and individuals, but the cities also must make a commitment to change.
The program is funded over five years by a $25 million commitment from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Gov. Terry Branstad announced the communities this morning at a press conference in Des Moines.
“Although we’re pleased with the progress, we know there is a lot more to do,” he said.