Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

October 19, 2012

Oskaloosa prepares for Blue Zones visit

By ANDY GOODELL
Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — It’s a unique opportunity for the community.

On Oct. 30, members of the Blue Zones Team will visit Oskaloosa for a site visit at the Musco Technology Center from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Dawn Collins, executive director of the Mahaska County YMCA and member of the Mahaska Wellness Coalition, said a big part of the site visit will be demonstrating why Oskaloosa should be a Blue Zones Project demonstration site.

“We need to show that our stake holders and our community leaders are committed and that we want to improve community health using the Blue Zones principles,” said Collins, adding that its also important to show that it is possible to create sustainable environmental change in the area.

Collins said the Mahaska Wellness Coalition is helping organize community leaders to make a presentation to the Blue Zones Project Team on the area’s readiness to be a Blue Zones Project Demonstration site. School, business and city policy leaders are being looked at for this effort.

“Those are the three biggest areas wherein we will create environmental change and we need their support for this project so it’s critical that we show their support,” explained Collins.

Collins said demonstration sites are being selected  throughout Iowa. Resources and experts will be a part of these demonstration sites as a way to create change, said Collins.

Should Oskaloosa become a demonstration site, there would then be a several month long period after which Oskaloosa could become a certified Blue Zone, said Collins. She said during this demonstration period specific goals would have to be met by major employers, grocery stores, restaurants, schools and within city policy. Some of these things have already been started, added Collins.

The Blue Zones Project carries with it principles to help people not only improve their health, but improve social and spiritual aspects of their lives, Collins said. She noted that events like Friday After Five, Art on the Square and Sweet Corn Serenade point to Oskaloosa’s focus on having a sense of community.

“Oskaloosa already recognizes that the sense of community and belonging is critical,” Collins said.

Collins said there is a need for health improvements in Oskaloosa and Mahaska County and said that is why the area needs the Blue Zones Project here. She cited statistics from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, which notes that 11 percent of Mahaska County is in “poor or fair health.”

Gov. Terry Branstad started the Healthiest State initiative last year, said Collins. The Blue Zones Project was introduced with this initiative. The Mahaska Wellness Coalition was created at this time, added Collins.

Mahaska Wellness Coalition would go on to organize the 100 Day Wellness Challenge through Live Healthy Iowa, said Collins. Approximately 11 percent of the community participated in this effort.

Those interested in attending the Blue Zones Project site visit can RSVP with Diane Burns at burnsd@wmpenn.edu by Oct. 25.

To learn more about the Blue Zones Project, visit www.bluezonesproject.com or contact Collins at 673-8411.