Marion, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids Among Newest Blue Zones

Blue Zones is a program to assist communities in promoting healthy behaviors.

Three communities in the Eastern Iowa Corridor have been designated as demonstration sites for Blue Zones, a program that assists in promoting healthy living.

Marion, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids earned that title today, along with Muscatine, Oskaloosa and Sioux City.

"With our demographics, we have a real opportunity to model healthy behaviors that future generations will carry forward," Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said. "As a large employer, it also has the potential to impact our healthcare costs, which in turn leads to positive impacts on property taxes."

Pluckhahn said designation coincides with recently approved money in the budget for new wellness initiatives, so the timing is right.

The communities receive assistance from national experts to develop and implement a blueprint for making permanent environmental, social, and policy changes that transition people into healthier behaviors that can lead to longer, happier lives.

It's part of Gov. Terry Branstad's Healthiest State Initiative and is based on the book, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” by Dan Buettner.

“Through the Blue Zones Project, tools that can facilitate the journey for any community to achieving higher well-being have been made available to Iowa communities and residents state-wide,” Buettner said, on the programs website.

In Iowa City, Nancy Quellhorst told the Iowa City Press-Citizen it is a "community endeavor."

“Simply stated, we will become and even happier, healthier community,” Quellhorst said. “Experts will help us construct a blueprint for fostering happier, healthier behavior that will lead us through permanent environmental, social and policy changes that can really make a difference in this community.”

The Cedar Rapids Blue Zones Leadership and Strategy Teams will host a celebration tonight at 5 p.m. at Zins Restaurant in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Last year, Cedar Falls and Waterloo were among those to earn the Blue Zones designation.

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