Convincing people to make healthy lifestyle changes works best in communities that support those positive choices. That’s why a cornerstone of the Healthiest State Initiative is the Blue Zones Project, spearheaded by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa.
Based on the nine Blue Zones principles developed by Dan Buettner, all stakeholders of selected Blue Zones communities work together to make permanent environmental, social and policy changes that encourage comprehensive well-being.
Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo, all cities with populations over 10,000, were selected as the first Blue Zones demonstration sites; six more will be selected in January 2013.
We also recognize that there are smaller communities with the same enthusiasm and determination to be healthier, but without as many resources as larger communities. So we developed a pathway tailored to meet the needs of cities with fewer than 10,000 people and selected nine of those communities to serve as Blue Zone Project demonstration sites as well.
Is there a more perfect partner in a community’s quest toward health than a grocery store? Of course not, and as a result, supermarkets find common ground when it comes to helping shoppers eat better. Several Hy-Vee and Fareway locations are already Blue Zones-certified; more will follow. Certification tells shoppers they will enjoy features such as candy-free checkout lanes (replaced by good-for-you snacks), more fruits and vegetables, and healthy food demonstrations and cooking classes.
So what’s next? Plans are underway for a wellness tour bus to travel Iowa and provide biometric screenings and education. Every Hy-Vee store now has the services of a registered dietitian and the number of in-store chefs is growing steadily. These professionals work together to show Iowans that healthy food can be fun and affordable. And because people eat with their eyes, our stores now sell Hy-Vee Smart Plates,a 10-inch plate that, in a very natural way, reduces the amount of food people eat.
The goal of all these efforts as we move forward is to make the healthy choice the easy choice.