WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — The new year may be two weeks away but if Iowa is going to be the healthiest state in the nation, residents need to preempt January scale shock. That was the sentiment behind healthy holiday tips 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 leaders from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and insurance brokerage Holmes Murphy & Associates. “We can change an entire state and eventually an entire country,” Jurgens said.
A centerpiece of the initiative is the Blue Zone Project, a wellbeing movement based on the findings of researcher Dan Buettner who has studied places in the world where inhabitants live the longest, healthiest lives. Ten Iowa communities will be transformed into Blue Zones, adopting things like nutritious restaurant menus and bike lanes on main thoroughfares.
When a Blue Zone project came to Albert Lea, Minn. as part of a separate initiative, Hy-Vee replaced sugary snacks in a checkout lane with foods consumed in Blue Zones. The community project improved life expectancies by 3.2 years on average.