Spencer Named Iowa’s First Certified Blue Zones Community®
City Successfully Implements Wide Range of Improvements to Achieve Higher
SPENCER, Iowa -- November 20, 2013
Wellmark^® Blue Cross^® and Blue Shield^®, Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) and Blue
Zones, LLC, today announced that Spencer, Iowa has been named the state’s
first certified Blue Zones Community^®. Certification recognizes Spencer’s
successful implementation of the Blue Zones Project^®, a first-of-its-kind
population health program that focuses on making long-lasting upgrades to the
living environment. It brings the world’s best practices in food policy, built
environment, purpose and social networking to demonstration cities.
Community leaders, volunteers and organizations throughout Spencer have been
working to reach this milestone since May 2012 when the community was named
one of the first Blue Zones Project demonstration sites in Iowa. As a result
of their efforts, Spencer can celebrate the following outcomes:
*The City of Spencer reports a more than 20% decrease in City workers’
healthcare claims and that nearly half of City employees eliminated at
least one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes,
such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high glucose.
*Created more community walkability by appropriating $200,000 to new
sidewalk construction, leading to 200 citizen applications for new
sidewalks and implementing policy requiring sidewalks for future
*Spencer Elementary Schools claim a 10% increase in the number of students
walking or biking to school from the 2011-2012 school year to the
2012-2013 school year.
*Increased the number of Community Gardens from one location with seven
plots to three locations with 36 plots.
Since health behaviors are verifiably contagious, the Project also organized
committed social networks called Moais, modeled off of an Okinawan ideal.
Approximately 250 walking Moai group participants in Spencer have logged more
than 136,000 walking minutes since the Project’s inception.
“Spencer’s remarkable success further demonstrates that when communities work
together to make evidence-based changes to their living environment both
health and well-being improve,” said Blue Zones Founder, Dan Buettner.
Spencer achieved Blue Zones Community status after making well-being
improvements across the community, reaching the following key milestones in
order to achieve this recognition:
*50% of the top 20 identified worksites became designated Blue Zones
*25% of schools became designated Blue Zones Schools^®
*25% of restaurants became designated Blue Zones Restaurants^®
*25% of grocery stores became designated Blue Zones Grocery Stores^®
*20% of citizens committed to the Blue Zones Project and completed at least
one well-being improvement action
*The community successfully completed the Blue Zones Community Policy™
“The Blue Zones Project has motivated me to make positive changes in my life,”
said Spencer resident Deb Muller. Muller is employed by Farmers Trust and
Savings Bank and is one of many Spencer residents who lost a significant
amount of weight as a result of taking part in Blue Zones Project activities
and programs. “I initially chose one Power 9 principle and it has led me to
implement others. I have lost 35 pounds and I have more energy. I have
participated in several Moais and am more outgoing and less concerned about
myself and more about others. My five daughters are eating healthier as well.
Small changes are making a big impact!”
Among the other impressive economic and health gains the Project influenced:
*City of Spencer claims that fulltime and volunteer firemen working with
the Spencer Fire Department lost a combined total of 130 pounds, an
average of 7.22 pounds each.
*Spencer Hospital reports that insurance paid claims increased by only 1.4%
between 2011 and 2012 compared to the national trend of 7% and their own
average of 15% over the previous 5 years.
*The Hospital also reports that their Spring 2013 wellness screening
revealed that more than half of those screened eliminated one or more risk
factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes compared to the previous
year. Only 6% experienced an increase.
*Spencer Municipal Utilities said that employees screened between 2012 and
2013 also experienced significant reductions in risk factors for
cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“The Blue Zones Project has done so much to raise awareness about the
importance of well-being throughout our town,” said Bob Fagen, Spencer’s City
Manager and Co-Chair of Spencer’s Blue Zones Project Power 9 Committee.
“Through the continued effort, I expect to see many positive outcomes when
more data about the impact of the Project becomes available next year.”
“What Spencer has done to transform their community to make well-being a way
of life is incredible,” said Wellmark Chairman and CEO, John Forsyth. “This
achievement required tremendous commitment and effort, and we could not be
more impressed by the visionary example Spencer has set for all communities in
Iowa and across the country.”
The Blue Zones Project is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative
to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016 as measured by the Gallup-Healthways
Well-Being Index^®, the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents’ health
and well-being. Brought to Iowa through an innovative sponsorship by Wellmark
in collaboration with Healthways and Blue Zones, the Blue Zones Project
initiative encourages all Iowa communities to change their built environments
to make the healthy choice, the easy choice.
Fifteen Iowa communities are currently part of the Blue Zones Project and
statewide outcomes to date. For more information, please visit
“We are proud to recognize Spencer for their successful efforts to achieve
Blue Zones Community certification,” said Ben R. Leedle, Jr., Healthways
president and chief executive officer. “Sustained well-being transformation
depends on the establishment of a built environment and social policies that
support and reinforce well-being improvement, both for the individual and the
broader community. Through their actions, Spencer has fully demonstrated their
commitment to improved well-being. The impact of the Blue Zones Project to
date in the community is inspiring, and we look forward to working with
Spencer to continue facilitating their well-being transformation.”
Wellmark, Inc. (www.wellmark.com) does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and
Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies,
including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark
Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than 2
million members in Iowa and South Dakota.Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield
of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark
Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue
Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) is the largest independent global provider of
well-being improvement solutions. Dedicated to creating a healthier world one
person at a time, the Company uses the science of behavior change to produce
and measure positive change in well-being for our customers, which include
employers, integrated health systems, hospitals, physicians, health plans,
communities and government entities. We provide highly specific and
personalized support for each individual and their team of experts to optimize
each participant’s health and productivity and to reduce health-related costs.
Results are achieved by addressing longitudinal health risks and care needs of
everyone in a given population. The Company has scaled its proprietary
technology infrastructure and delivery capabilities developed over 30 years
and now serves approximately 40 million people on four continents. Learn more
About Blue Zones
Blue Zones employs evidence-based ways to help people live longer, better. The
Company’swork is rooted in theNew York Times best-selling books TheBlue
Zonesand Thrive—both published by National Geographic books. In 2009, Blue
Zones applied the tenets of the books to Albert Lea, MN and successfully
raised life expectancy and lowered health care costs for city workers by 40%.
Blue Zonestakes a systematic, environmental approach to well-being which
focuses on optimizing policy, building design, social networks, and the built
environment. The Blue Zones Project is based on this innovative approach. For
more information, visit www.bluezones.com.
Traci McBee, 515-376-4338
Bruce Middlebrooks, 615-614-4463
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