Officials with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Healthways, Inc., and Blue Zones, LLC, today (Monday) announced that the City of Harlan has been named a certified Blue Zones Community®. Certification recognizes the city’s transformation through successful implementation of the Blue Zones Project®, a first-of-its-kind population health program that brings the world’s best practices in food policy, built environment, purpose and social networking to participating cities.
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 optimize their surroundings to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
Community leaders, volunteers and organizations throughout Harlan have been working to achieve certification status since October 2012, when the community was named a Blue Zones Project demonstration site. As a result of its efforts, Harlan can celebrate:
· It’s $350,000 investment in expanding the Pioneer Park 1.2 mile walking trail to include 10-foot wide sidewalks. New lighting also enhances safety and encourages extended use at dawn and dusk.
· A school district that now offers biometric screening opportunities three times per year and a health risk assessment. More than 98 percent of participants have indicated they will continue to participate in the wellness program.
· Members of the Peterson Wellness Center and the Harlan Community School District, who completed more than 700 Blue Zones Personal Pledges during a friendly competition.
· Employees at Elm Crest Retirement Community, who logged 500 volunteer hours in 2014.
· A 5-percent increase in Hy-Vee produce sales each year over the past three years and shelf space for fresh-cut produce has tripled in size.
· The elementary school garden, which has grown fivefold in size during the past year, and the school district’s tobacco policy now prohibits all types of tobacco products.
· And the Sandwich Bowl restaurant, which now offers carrots or an apple as a side, resulting in the use of more than 12 pounds of baby carrots each week. About 15 percent of sandwiches are now ordered with either carrots or apples instead of the regular side of chips.
Harlan achieved Blue Zones Community status after reaching several key milestones, all of which are required improvement goals for Blue Zones Project demonstration communities to receive certification. The community is planning a celebration later this summer to recognize the efforts of the entire community in becoming a certified Blue Zones Community.
Fifteen Iowa communities are currently part of the Blue Zones Project. For more information, please visit www.bluezonesproject.com.