By Michelle Tibodeau Sillman
If only it were easier to live a healthier, happier life — right here in Cedar Rapids. What would it take? How much would it cost?
Relatively little, according to the Blue Zones Project, an initiative being funded and led by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Healthways (a Nashville-based well-being company). The idea behind the project is that small, meaningful changes in the places where we live, work, and play can significantly improve our health. The Blue Zones Project is working to make such changes in cities all over Iowa. Ten lucky cities are being chosen as demonstration sites, which means international experts come into the chosen cities to help turn them into Blue Zones Communities. There is a committee in Cedar Rapids working hard to win Blue Zone designation for our city, and at the end of January we’ll find out if we’ve been chosen.
A Blue Zones community is designed for better health and well-being, where healthy choices are easier because of permanent changes in environment, policy and social networks. Those changes are based on nine healthy lifestyle habits learned from a worldwide longevity study. The changes focus on moving naturally, eating wisely, having the right outlook, and belonging.
When a city becomes a demonstration site, experts do tasks such as work with restaurants to find ways to provide better and affordable choices, such as making fresh fruit the default option rather than french fries. Or, rather than asking residents to walk or bike more, walking and cycling are made easier through bike lanes and better trail access.
Four cities — Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo — have already been selected as demonstration sites. Six more large cities (population of 10,000 or more) will be chosen at the end of January.
As part of the city’s kickoff event, Waterloo received a walking audit from the executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, Dan Burden. He cited ideas for making Waterloo more livable, walkable and sustainable. Every month there are new activities.
You can help Cedar Rapids get healthier and happier
Please pledge your support for Blue Zones Cedar Rapids at bluezonesproject.com. Your pledge will make a difference. The more citizens who say they want Cedar Rapids to be a Blue Zones Community, the better chances we have of winning the designation.
Pledging your support is free, easy and good for our community.l Michelle Tibodeau Sillman is health and marketing writer at St. Luke’s Hospital and volunteers for Blue Zones Cedar Rapids. firstname.lastname@example.org