In early 2013, after a highly competitive selection process, Oskaloosa was chosen as one of 19 Blue Zones Demonstration Sites in Iowa. Extensive work toward becoming a certified Blue Zones community begins in January 2014.
According to Dawn Collins, Executive Director of the YMCA and a Blue Zones Volunteer, Blue Zones communities work hand-in-hand with experts to develop a blueprint for making permanent environmental, social and policy changes that will nudge people towards healthier behaviors. The Blue Zones Project is one of several state-wide initiatives designed to improve the health of Iowa as we work towards becoming the healthiest state in the nation.
"The work of becoming certified will be spearheaded by six local staff members working hand-in-hand with two volunteer groups as well as the Oskaloosa City Council, Oskaloosa School Board and community leaders during the 18 month process,” Collins said.
Three staff members will be employed by Healthways, the company leading the Blue Zones projects throughout Iowa. Oskaloosa is tasked with filling the remaining three positions through direct employment with local employers, through loaned executive work share arrangements or through funding assistance.
“It’s truly a partnership that the Blue Zones community enters with Healthways,” Collins explained. “In addition to the paid positions, volunteer groups will play a major role in developing and carrying out the initiatives that will lead us down the path of becoming a certified Blue Zones community.”
Collins stressed that it is time to re-affirm commitments with current volunteers as well as to recruit new volunteers. “You can help your community – and boost your personal well-being – by joining a committee to implement the various strategies and activities of the Blue Zones Project. We need volunteers from all walks of life, of all ages and backgrounds who will come together for the benefit of making Oskaloosa a healthier community.”