Iowa's Increase in Well-Being Outpaces Nation by 2:1

posted on Thursday, March 31, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (March 31, 2016) — The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative announced today, since 2010, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® results show that Iowa has outpaced the nation in overall well-being, improving at twice the rate of the national average.

In addition to capturing aspects of physical health, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index examines Americans’ perceptions on topics that span individuals’ sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security and relationship to their community. These five interrelated elements are proven to directly influence quality of life, health care costs and workplace productivity.

“This is a huge accomplishment and Iowans should be proud of the work they have done to improve their well-being,” said Jami Haberl, Iowa Healthiest State Initiative executive director. “We can’t, however, lose sight of the work that remains. Our goal is to become the healthiest state in the nation.”

Focus Five improvements
In order to become No. 1 in well-being, the Healthiest State Initiative has been focusing on five key priorities — the Focus Five are:

  • Decreasing the number of Iowans who smoke
  • Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables to five or more servings daily at least four days a week
  • Increasing the number of Iowans who are learning or doing something interesting every day
  • Increasing the number of Iowans who have visited the dentist in the last 12 monthsIncreasing the number of working Iowans who feel their boss treats them like a partner at work.

Since 2010, four of the five priorities have moved in the right direction. Iowans are still lacking in consumption of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily at least four days a week.

“These results show the commitment of Iowans toward becoming the healthiest state in the nation,” Haberl said. “We will continue to work on these Focus Five areas to further improve the well-being of Iowans.”

15 Iowa communities lead by example
The Healthiest State Initiative and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield are also proud to announce all 15 Blue Zones Project Demonstration Communities have been named Certified Blue Zones Communities®. As the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative, this achievement marks a statewide milestone to make healthy choices easier — community by community — through permanent changes to environment, policy and social networks.

The 15 Iowa communities to achieve certification are: Algona, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Fairfield, Harlan, Iowa City, Marion, Mason City, Muscatine, Oskaloosa, Sioux City, Spencer, Spirit Lake, Waterloo, and Woodbine. 

Blue Zones Project by Healthways was brought to Iowa through a sponsorship by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

“Watching the progress these 15 communities have made over the past five years has been exciting,” said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president. “Through their dedication and commitment, they have shown us a community-based approach is making a difference in transforming the environment in which Iowans live, work and play.”

Blue Zones Project has helped make the healthy choice the easy choice for Iowans by working with these communities to create sustainable changes. Results include:

More than 520,000 Iowans who live in these 15 communities have greater access to healthy foods from a wide variety of sources thanks to community efforts to: establish and/or expand school and community gardens; plant edible forests; pass policies allowing farmers’ markets; and locally sourcing food for school lunches.

A total of 610 worksites, schools, grocery stores and restaurants became Blue Zones Project designated by making healthy choices easier.

An additional 142 Walking School Bus routes were created to encourage students to move naturally.
All 15 communities passed new Complete Streets policies to enable safe access for all users — vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.

“We are proud of everything these communities have accomplished and look forward to their continued success as they focus on the long-term sustainability for their well-being initiatives,” Jackson said. “Iowans are making significant progress toward well-being. These communities are a great example of the work that Iowa is doing and will continue to do to become the healthiest state in the nation.” 


About Iowa Healthiest State Initiative
The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative is the nation’s first statewide comprehensive well-being improvement program. This business-led, government-endorsed effort is expected to help Iowans live longer, healthier and more productive lives, while also enabling the state to redirect billions of dollars currently spent on health care to efforts that will further grow the state’s economy. The Healthiest State Initiative is designed to help Iowa become the number one ranked state for well-being within five years as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. For more information, visit

About Blue Zones
Blue Zones employs evidence-based ways to help people live longer, better. The Company's work is rooted in the New York Times best-selling books The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, The Blue Zones and Thrive — all published by National Geographic books. Since 2009, Blue Zones has applied the tenets of the books to communities and corporations across the U.S. and has successfully raised life expectancy and lowered health care costs while bringing down smoking and obesity rates. Blue Zones takes a systematic, environmental approach to well-being, which focuses on optimizing policy, building design, social networks, and the built environment. Blue Zones Project is based on this innovative approach.  For more information, visit

About Wellmark
Wellmark, Inc. ( does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than 2 million members in Iowa and South Dakota. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.