Four cities across Iowa are holding celebrations this week to roll out programs to work toward a “Blue Zone” designation – which recognizes efforts to create healthier communities. The project director of the Healthiest State Initiative, Mary Lawyer, says the cities have been drawing up plans for the past several months.

“These kickoffs are really bringing to the community this initiative and saying we’re in implementation mode now, there’s gonna be a lot of exciting things happening in the community. You’re going to start to visually see transformations and actions taken,” according to Lawyer.

For example, Lawyer says, restaurants might change their menus to highlight healthier options. “In restaurants, you might not have salt and pepper on the tables or bread or chips offered to you initially when you go in — it might be only available upon request,” Lawyer says.

“The menus might have their sides flipped. Typically we see fries on the top of the menu and salads or broccoli on the bottom. And we know people are 15-percent more likely to eat what’s at the top of the side menu.” Cities could add walking and biking routes.

Waterloo kicked off its events Tuesday, Cedar Falls is kicking off today, Spencer on Thursday and Mason City Friday. Six more cities will be chosen for the project on January 30.

The Healthiest State Initiative is a public-private partnership formed by the governor’s office with the goal of making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.