Six more Iowa cities with populations above 10,000 people have been selected as Blue Zones demonstration sites. The project is part of Governor Branstad’s initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.
Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner says the cities of Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Marion, Muscatine, Oskaloosa and Sioux City will join 13 other cities and towns previously selected as demonstration sites.
“So, these communities are the ‘A’ students in class,” Buettner said. “They competed with 83 other Iowa cities and showed they are the most ready to change their environment and surroundings so the active choice, the healthy choice, the social choice is going to be the easy choice.”
Healthways and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield will now offer assistance from experts to develop strategies to improve the health of residents in the six cities. Buettner started a similar Blue Zones project in an area of Los Angeles two years ago.
That initiative has involved roughly 125,000 participants. “As measured by Gallop, we brought the smoking rate down by 30 percent and the obesity rate down by 14-percent. That means there are 1,700 fewer obese people,” Buettner said.
Gallop researchers also estimated the project in Los Angeles will result in ten-million dollars ($10 million) in savings on long term health care costs. “In Iowa, we have more than 30 times more people taking on this same approach,” Buettner said. “So, you can do the math and see it’s going to equate to enormous savings in this state.”
The six cities selected today as Blue Zones demonstration sites join four other “big” cities that were announced in May — Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo. Nine smaller cities, with under 10,000 people, were also named demonstration sites in October — Algona, Audubon, Decorah, Harlan, Fairfield, Osage, Red Oak, Spirit Lake and Woodbine.
The six new Blue Zones cities beat out six other finalists for the designation. The cities that were NOT selected are Altoona, Burlington, Clinton, Davenport, Dubuque and Ottumwa.