Atlantic looks to become a “Blue Zone” community


October 6th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic City Council Wednesday, heard a presentation by a local health official regarding efforts to have the City designated as a “Blue Zone” Community. Cass County Public Health Coordinator Denise Coder said a “Blue Zone” is where residents live a healthy, happy and long life. It’s part of Governor Terry Branstad’s plan announced in August, to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation, by 2016, as measured by the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index. Coder says Iowa currently ranks as the 19th healthiest state. Hy-Vee and Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield are the corporate sponsors for the initiative. The corporations have pledged between $15-and 25-million toward the project. Coder says some of the funding will be used to survey Iowan’s about their health behaviors and how much progress is being made. The rest will be designated toward the “Blue Zone Project.”

She says research by Dan Buettner into what makes a healthy community began several years ago. The results of the research helped to determine common elements for persons being healthly, happy and having a long-life. Those elements were developed into an initiative to try and get communities to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Iowa will choose 10 communities to transform into “Blue Zone Communities.” In Addition, all Iowans will have access to tools and information, to help them take action, regardless of whether their community is selected or not as part of the program. Coder says “bedroom communities” – those comprised mostly of commuters – are not likely to be chosen, because officials want to involve those towns where a majority of the people live and work in the community.

Beginning next Monday, October 10th, a road show informational meeting will be held in Harlan, from 9-to 10-a.m. Blue Zone founder Dan Buettner will participate in the event, which is designed for community and business leaders, along with other interested Iowans, to learn first-hand about the project, and how to transform their towns into Blue Zone Communities. It’s also being held to determine the level of interest in the program. Coder asked the council for two representatives to attend the round-up meeting in Harlan, along with other local community and health officials. Efforts to show Atlantic’s interest in the Blue Zone Community program will include a formal letter of application of commitment which will be sent to program officials, and, 25-percent of the population must indicate their intention to participate in the effort. Coder says the effect of becoming an active participant in the program, was exemplified by Albert Lea, MN, where the city’s health insurance costs dropped by 40-percent. She says a similar effort in Atlantic, would be a huge economic benefit for some of the top employers in the community, not just individuals’ health.

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