Courier Staff Writer
Blue Zones officials are on their way to Ottumwa again.
From 4-6 p.m. Monday, two to three Blue Zones officials will visit with Ottumwa’s Blue Zones committee in council chambers at City Hall.
“It’s more or less an update,” said Wapello County Public Health Clinical Director Lynelle Diers. “Since we’ve already had a full-blown site visit, we’ll update them on what has changed since the first site visit.”
The Blue Zones Project is a component of Gov. Terry Branstad’s Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.
In early October, it was announced that Ottumwa and Oskaloosa, along with 10 other large communities, were finalists in the running to be named Blue Zones demonstration sites in January.
Nine smaller communities, including Fairfield, were named Blue Zones demonstration sites for communities with populations of less than 10,000.
Oskaloosa will host its site visit on Tuesday at Musco Technology Center.
To become certified, a community needs at least 20 percent participation and as of Sunday, Ottumwa is 5 percent away from that goal at 15.1 percent participation.
“Since the first site visit, we’ve completed board and leadership groups training a couple weeks ago to understand what Blue Zones is and where it came from,” Diers said. “The community transformation grant has added signs to the trails, we’ve worked with two work sites, done two restaurant assessments.”
Vending machines throughout the community are getting healthier, Diers said, after they were assessed and team members spoke with vendors.
The committee has also done bikeability assessments and worked to install bike racks across town. The new marketplace, “Market on Main,” will also open in September.
If chosen as a demonstration site in January, Ottumwa will receive technical support from Healthways, including the hire of a full-time project director and community coordinator from within the Ottumwa community.
“We’ve been talking to individuals on how to implement policy changes and how to get funds to enhance the trails and our community to be more aesthetic and bring more people to the community,” she said.
The public is welcome to come to show their support, Diers said. Individuals from throughout the community have also been invited to update the officials on what has been happening in their respective departments.
“I’m very excited,” Diers said. “I think we’re much more ready than we were in the spring to start this whole certification process.”