"Since we weren't selected, we can do it our way," she said. "The timeline is ours now, and we can individualize it to our community."
Since Gov. Terry Branstad launched his mission in 2011 to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016, the state has moved up in national rankings from 16th healthiest state to ninth as of February, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
"We certainly felt the mission and effort to continue to try to make Ottumwa a healthier place to live was an important one," said Ottumwa YMCA executive director Tom Sisler. "Some [initiatives] are patterned after what other Blue Zones committees are doing, some are really us going off, doing what we feel we need to do here."
The team is split into four focus groups: environment; health, nutrition and well-being; workforce; and education.
Environment will look at "what's around us physically," Diers said, including the trail system, bicycle paths, sidewalks and recreational facilities and activities.
"We have to realize this is long-term," she said. "This is not something that's going to go away in two to three years. Some things take years to work toward, and workforce is probably going to be one that will take a lot longer, because when we're talking workforce it goes back to worksite wellness. Statistics show that if an employee is not happy, that is not a productive employee."
Health, nutrition and well-being will focus on improving availability of fresh, local products as well as increasing physical activity in schools.
"We're so accustomed to fast food because it's quick and easy," she said. "The younger generations can't remember when things were different."