Some 80 cities are competing to become part of the “Blue Zones Project” that’s part of the governor’s plan to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016. The project is being led by a company called Healthways and is funded by insurance provider Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Healthways spokesman Jason Smith says they’re looking to narrow the 84 communities down to 10. “I think we also as part of this want to make sure that we have a mix of cities small, medium and large that truly represent Iowa and other communities can look to and say ‘yea, they’re kind of like us, if they can do it, we can do it too,’” Smith says.

He says they want communities that have strong support from the public to participate. “Our ideal candidates were communities that had a single municipality, a single school district, not really complex communities,” Smith said, “Communities where the majority of the people live and work instead of a commuter town or suburb where people leave in the morning and then come back at night.”

Smith says the cities will be the center piece for the health movement in the state. He says they are really “trying to ignite a city-by-city movement to improve the well being of the citizens of Iowa.”

Smith says they’re trying to do it by working with communities and employers to make permanent changes in the environment and policies that “nudge people into the right behaviors and make the healthy choice the right choice.” The cities chosen will be given an invitation to submit a formal application for the project by November 23 and they must have their applications in by January fourth of 2012.

A group of finalist communities will be selected to host a site visit between February 27th and March 16th of 2012. The final selection will be made in May. While the review process is underway, residents can support their community by pledging online

The 84 communities that submitted Statements of Interest are :
Albia, Algona, Alta, Altoona, Ames, Ankeny, Atlantic, Audubon, Bellevue, Bondurant, Burlington, Carroll, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Chariton, Charles City, Cherokee, Osceola, Clarion, Clinton, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Decorah, Denison, Des Moines, Dubuque, Dyersville, Estherville, Fairfield, Fort Dodge, Glenwood, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance, Grinnell, Grundy Center, Harlan, Holstein, Independence, Indianola, Iowa City Area (Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty), Johnston, Jones County, La Porte City, Lake View, Le Mars, Manning, Marengo, Marion, Marshalltown, Mason City, Monroe, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon, Muscatine, Nevada, Newton, Norwalk, Oelwein, Orange City, Osage, Oskaloosa, Ottumwa, Pella, Perry, Polk City, Red Oak, Reinbeck, Riceville, Sac City, Sheldon, Sibley, Sioux Center, Sioux City, Spencer, Spirit Lake, St. Ansgar, Storm Lake, Story City, Stratford, Waterloo, Waverly, West Branch, West Des Moines, Winterset, Woodbine.