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Potluck: Healthy Living Initiative in Iowa


Zoning In

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner
and Mary Gottschalk

Living well can add years to your life. That’s the message of the Healthiest State Initiative (HSI) — a collaboration between Wellmark, Hy-Vee, and the Blue Zones Project (based on the nine principles of healthy living defined by best-selling author Dan Buettner).

Living well isn’t as easy as it once was. “We’ve engineered a lot of healthy choices out of daily life,” says Becky Wampler, director of health care sustainability at Wellmark, who observes that parents now organize activities to replace exercise kids used to get walking to school. “We want to highlight a host of healthy lifestyle improvements that individuals can make at no or very low cost.”

The HSI message struck a chord with community leaders and residents of Woodbine, one of 84 communities in Iowa that applied to be a demonstration site for the Initiative. Debra Sprecker, program director for the Woodbine Main Street Chamber, believes the town has a good shot at being one of the demonstration sites to be announced this summer. Since 2008 Woodbine has been both a Main Street Iowa community and a Green Pilot community. The years of collaboration on the Main Street and Green Pilot projects meant that the town was already mobilized to complete the complex HSI application.

And there was no hesitation about applying. “Main Street and Green Pilot focused on economic and environmental sustainability,” says Sprecker. “This initiative to sustain the physical health of our community fit right in. Over 60 percent of our residents made the online pledge to support the initiative.” Woodbine’s participation rate is thus far the highest in the state.

For more information on the Healthiest State Initiative, visit Learn more about the Blue Zones Project and healthy living principles at — M.G.

Photo courtesy Debra Sprecker

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