CR Exploring Options After "Blue Zones"

You may have heard the term "Blue Zones" throughout Cedar Rapids.

It refers to lifestyle changes, like adding healthier food alternatives at restaurants, bike lanes, and even just going for a walk.

The city earned their "Blue Zone status" after years of effort, but in 2018 the city's blue zone contract will come to an end.

The Blue Zones initiative has already provided Cedar Rapids with more bike lanes, sidewalks, and more walking options for adults and students.

They've even encouraged 17 schools in Cedar Rapids to get their students out walking to school with a chaperone rather than use a car or bus.

But since their contract is coming to an end, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield gave an overview of their Healthy Hometown Program as an alternative for the city.

Part of their program suggests more access to fruits and vegetables and creating more nicotine-free areas.

They've already started using this program in other cities within the state.

"In Clinton we've been working with them on a master plan where they're figuring out master tactics that they're working on for the eat well, move more, feel better area, in Ames we're working with the work site collaborative that's learning from each other what things they can do in the work site to help people be healthier," says Mary Lawyer, Wellmark's Director of Community Health Improvement.

The city's wellness advisory committee listened to a "Healthy Hometown" presentation from Wellmark on Tuesday, December 19, as a possible option to partner with after Blue Zones ends.

"We've been working a lot of years to make the community much more healthy and teach people about healthy lifestyles and so we're just looking forward to new opportunities to continue that momentum and continue working with the community to become more healthy," says City of Cedar Rapids Communications Division Manager, Maria Johnson.

The city says they're still in the early planning stages on what they will do once the Blue Zones initiative ends.

According to a report released by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, obesity rates in Iowa have already doubled over the last two decadesbecause of less physical activity, larger portions of food being consumed, and less nutritious food options.

That's why adding things like an outdoor garden to schools or more bike lanes have become so important in communities.

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