Spirit Lake Still in the Running to be a Blue Zones Community
Since October, over 900 communities across Iowa have taken efforts to be selected as one of 10 Blue Zones Communities as identified by Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® and Healthways. In January that number was reduced to 54 communities, of which Spirit Lake was one. Those 54 communities were eagerly awaiting the news to learn which 12 communities would remain in the running and be selected for site visits, the next step toward their final selection. This morning Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® and Healthways announced 11 “large community” finalists in efforts to become recognized as Blue Zones Communities. Those communities included:
However, in an interesting change of events, they also announced that they would be expanding the number of communities to be ultimately selected as Blue Zones Communities to more than the original 10. According to Spirit Lake Blue Zone Advisory Board Member Jeff Vierkant, “Healthways was surprised at the number and quality of applications that came from smaller communities. Based on that, they are now considering selecting nearly 30 Blue Zones Communities but differentiating them by size – selecting 10 ‘large’ and possibly up to 20 ‘small’ communities. It appears the communities selected on Friday are no smaller than a population of 10,000. We’ve also been told that our application was very strong and we are definitely in the running for one of the ‘small’ community selections.”
Although not yet selected, Spirit Lake Blue Zone organizers were happy to receive the news. “It’s great they’ve had such an overwhelming response to Iowa communities, large and small, to the Blue Zones concept. We are extremely excited about what the efforts could mean for our community and are happy and just as energized to work toward that goal, if not more so now,” said Vierkant.
Speculation has already begun on Spirit Lake’s likelihood of being chosen as a Blue Zone finalist since Spencer was announced as a finalist. “We’re not worried about that at all. We’re happy for our neighbors to the south for being included in the ‘large community’ finalist group. They’ve put a great deal of effort into their initiatives and we wish them well as they proceed. Significant efforts to unite the ‘corridor’ have been made over the years and it makes the entire region ultimately a better area in which to live and work,” said Spirit Lake Blue Zone Advisory Board Member Jason Harrington. “Given our history of collaboration, it’s nice we will not be directly competing but will instead be given the opportunity to do some collaborative things in the future around Blue Zones.”
The “small” communities selected for site visits will be announced in March, with the visits to occur in April and May. Until the announcement is made, Spirit Lake Blue Zone efforts are still in full force. Initiatives including community gardens, walking moais, biking moais, speaker series about the Power 9 principles, entrée options at area restaurants, and many more are underway. Spirit Lake Blue Zone Advisory Board Member Norm Johnson encouraged area residents to “like” the Spirit Lake Blue Zone Facebook page to know what opportunities are available. He said, “There are so many options in which to get involved as a participant or as a volunteer, all based on what’s important to you as an individual.”
To become involved with the Spirit Lake Blue Zones effort, please:
1. Email email@example.com or call 336-8799
2. Pledge non-financial support of Spirit Lake as a Blue Zones Community by visiting www.bluezonesproject.com or texting “BZP” to 772937.
3. Like Spirit Lake Blue Zones on Facebook and follow Spirit Lake Blue Zones on Twitter (@SLBlueZone) to learn of information about local activities and ways to adopt Blue Zones Power 9 principles