May 10, 2013

Preparing to be a demonstration site

The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — Earlier this year, it was announced that Oskaloosa will become a Blue Zones Project Demonstration site beginning in 2014.

In October 2012, those involved in education, government, health care and others gathered at the Musco Technology Center on the William Penn University campus for the Blue Zones Project site visit. These individuals were joined by Blue Zones Project Team members.

Following introductions, the day’s activities began with a presentation focused on the community’s readiness to be a Blue Zones Project Demonstration site. These sites can then become certified Blue Zones after a several-month-long period.

On Thursday, Dawn Collins, executive director of the Mahaska County YMCA and a member of the Mahaska Wellness Coalition, said she and the other MWC members remain very excited about Oskaloosa being a demonstration site for the Blue Zones Project.

Demonstration site implementation will begin in January 2014, noted Collins. She said work on this implementation effort will take place after the July 25 RAGBRAI stop in Oskaloosa.

“There will be some positions to fill and some fund-raising to do for that,” explained Collins.

Support and resources from national heath experts is expected in early 2014 as part of being a Blue Zones Project demonstration site, noted Collins.

Collins also discussed the Safe Routes to School effort. In February, the Oskaloosa City Council approved three items related to the city of Oskaloosa Safe Routes to School. The first item approved a resolution adopting the plan. The next item approved authorizing Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock Jr. to execute and deliver all necessary documents in connection with the grant application for funds under the Safe Routes to School Program. Lastly, the city council approved a contract with the Area 15 Regional Planning Commission in an amount not to exceed $3,500 to apply for the Safe Routes to School Program grant.

“That is very much supported by the Wellness Coalition, as well as the Blue Zones Project,” she said. “So, some of our long-range planning that we need to focus on for Blue Zones we’ve already started working on, which is wonderful.”

In being a demonstration site for the Blue Zones Project, the goal is to become a certified Blue Zones community, said Collins. She said there are specific objectives that need to be achieved in order to obtain this certification.

“So, in terms of a project, it has a very clear and concrete plan that we are working towards, which is very helpful,” said Collins.

A minimum of 20 percent of the community must pledge and complete goals after logging in to the Blue Zones Project Web site, Collins said. These pledges include things like taking steps toward getting better sleep at night, cited Collins as one example.

In addition to this, there will be work done with restaurants, grocery stores and employers related to things they can do to support health and wellness activities, said Collins. This is also related to becoming certified as a Blue Zones community, added Collins.

For more information on the Blue Zones Project, visit http://www.bluezonesproject.com. There is also a Facebook.com page related to local Blue Zones Project efforts. It can be found by searching “Blue Zones Project Oskaloosa” on Facebook.com.


Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at news2@oskyherald.com.