Mason City

How Mason City laid the 'foundation' for community health improvement

By Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield on Monday, August 20, 2018


Mason City is increasing its focus on well-being — and it shows. 

“If you start a conversation with anyone in Mason City, the vast majority of them understand that we’re working to improve well-being in our community,” says Angie Determan, community program manager for HEALTHY-Mason City.

While Mason City has been working with experts since 2012 to help make permanent changes that transition residents into healthier lifestyles, its most recent efforts earned a 2018 Healthy Hometown Community Award during the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative awards ceremony in February.

Among its recent improvements: A city trail system where residents can walk, run or ride bikes for miles and not cross over the same area twice. Thriving community gardens where people harvested 11,000 pounds of produce in 2017 — double the amount of the year before.

Mason City gardensZoning regulations for the farmers’ market, have increased the number of vendors, participants, sales and programming. And, newly planned neighborhood developments with sidewalks to encourage easy access to walking and biking opportunities.

Mason City’s community health improvement work has taken into account all of Healthy Hometown's key areas of focus: eat well, move more and feel better. But, a number of the improvements concentrate on increasing residents’ physical activity. 

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HEALTHY-Mason City, in partnership with the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health and Mason City Police Department, have provided educational materials about bike safety to every third grade classroom for the past three years.

Once the students have read through the materials and listened to the presentations, they attend a community-wide bike rodeo to help them put what they've learned into practice. At the rodeo, both kids and adults can wheel their bikes through various stations to get fitted for helmets, have their seat adjusted and get their tire pressure checked. At the end of the rodeo, participants learn how to go in and out of cones, stop at a stop sign, yield, use proper hand signals and more.

“We usually give away 30 or 40 bike helmets, which are provided by the local Kiwanis club,” says Determan. “It’s really a nice event for families and kids to learn more about bike safety.”

By educating third graders about bike safety, Mason City is encouraging a younger generation about the importance of getting outside and moving more.

GET STARTED WITH HEALTHY HOMETOWN: Do a self-assessment | Get free help from experts

Encouraging activity for all ages

All across Mason City, residents will find new bike racks and bike repair stations that encourage active commuting. The city’s Active Living and Transportation Commission recently implemented a bike share program, so residents without a bike or visitors can rent bikes at City Hall, East Park, and MacNider Campgrounds.

In addition, Mason City has been hard at work extending its existing trail system, increasing the frequency of trail maintenance, adding painted bike lanes on city streets, as well as new connections to the trails.

“I’ve seen a tremendous evolution of the trail system in Mason City since we started this process,” says Kelly Hansen, a member of the leadership team of HEALTHY-Mason City. “I think it’s just a great asset the community has. I now see people using those trails year-round, even with our challenging weather.” 

Mason City bikes

A community effort

HEALTHY-Mason City is providing the foundation for other community groups to help people eat well, move more and feel better. The local Kiwanis club sponsored a park and playground renovation, and a church downtown installed a bike repair station and a bike rack.

“We’re laying the foundation,” Determan says. “People are getting it, and they’re joining in on helping us improve the environment and the landscape and it’s really taking hold in Mason City because of that.”

Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark will unite Mason City’s ongoing initiatives and guide the community as it continues to make improvements focused on residents’ physical, social and emotional well-being.

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you get everyone moving in the same direction,” says Determan.

Think your community can do this? Learn how Healthy Hometown can help your community eat well, move more and feel better. Check out Healthy Hometown online or email HealthyHometown@Wellmark.com  for more information.