WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — We may be in the midst of the winter holiday season but if Iowa is going to become the healthiest state in the nation, residents need to preempt January scale shock.
That is the sentiment behind healthy holiday tips and recipes distributed by Hy-Vee  on behalf of the Healthiest State Initiative. The effort aims to help Iowa — currently the 19th healthiest state — take the top spot by 2016.
Hy-Vee Chief Executive Officer Ric Jurgens is spearheading the effort with business leaders from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and insurance brokerage Holmes Murphy & Associates. “I think the significance of this undertaking will be noticed by every key leader in America. We can change an entire state and eventually an entire country,” said Jurgens in a promotional video.
A centerpiece of initiative is the Blue Zone Project, a well-being movement based on the findings of author and researcher Dan Buettner who’s studied Blue Zones — places in the world where inhabitants live the longest, healthiest lives.
Blue Zone Projects endeavor to create healthier, happier and more productive citizens by adding things like nutritious menus to restaurants, bike lanes to main thoroughfares and ways to add purpose to residents’ life.
When elements of Blue Zones were emulated in Albert Lea, Minn. as part of a separate project, Hy-Vee supported the effort with a checkout lane that merchandised foods consumed in Blue Zones. The town decreased health care costs for municipal workers by 49%.
Ten Iowa communities will be transformed into Blue Zones as part of Healthiest State Initiative. Wellmark will contribute as much as $25 million to the effort.