The Blue Zones initiative is not just about diet and exercise.
It’s going to take many long-term policy and behavioral changes to make Ottumwa a healthier community, Blue Zones officials said.
In an update with three Blue Zones officials Monday night, Ottumwa’s Blue Zones committee said “it’s possible” to implement the majority of the Blue Zones principles.
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.
Wapello County Public Health Clinical Director Lynelle Diers said the Power 9 Board and leadership committee have the right people to implement Blue Zones. Diers said the goal is to keep the community engaged and to continue to educate them on what being a Blue Zones community means.
“People still have it in their head that it’s about diet and exercise,” Diers said. “But it’s a community lifestyle transformation.”
Lori Reeves, chair of the Rural Health Education Partnership at Indian Hills, said it’s about taking a different approach so people are not just signing their names.
“People who pledge their support sometimes don’t know what they’re pledging,” said Mary Lawyer, Blue Zones project director. “They need to take action.”
While Lawyer was concerned that Blue Zones did not have the full support of the city council and mayor, City Administrator Joe Helfenberger assured her that all were on board.
“My only concern is I didn’t see a letter from [Mayor Frank Flanders],” Lawyer said.
Helfenberger said the nature of the mayor’s position is that it’s not a full-time position, allowing the mayor to sustain a full-time job outside of his mayoral duties.
The city will also provide space in City Hall should the city be deemed a Blue Zones demonstration site, Helfenberger said.
In terms of the school pledge, the Ottumwa School District has already implemented several of the policies, while there are still many more policies Director of Community Programs Kim Hellige said are possible.
Several policies already implemented include enforcing a tobacco-free campus, limiting vending machine access during the school day, prohibiting unhealthy food options and incorporating nutrition education into the curriculum, among others.
Mindfulness skills, said Joel Spoonheim, subject matter expert for Blue Zones, can greatly reduce incidences of violent behavior.
“You’re showing an attitude of possibility, which is what we’re looking for,” Spoonheim said.
Hellige said all principals, booster clubs, teachers and staff are on board, something the Blue Zones officials said wasn’t in place at the site visit this spring.
A possible challenge could be the new elementary school on the south side, Hellige said, and how the district will work to encourage children to walk home. Though kids won’t be able to walk home from the school, she said they could provide “drop zones” where students could be dropped off to then walk home.
In terms of city policy, Helfenberger said the city has been working with the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation daily to start projects that will benefit health and education within the community.
Out of Ottumwa’s top 10 employers, Lawyer said they have letters of support from all but two.
Indian Hills Community College, John Deere Ottumwa Works, the school district and Ottumwa Regional Health Center have all already taken steps toward healthier living, including a fitness facility on site at John Deere and a four-tier insurance program at ORHC, among others.
Ottumwa has a huge volunteer base, Ottumwa’s Blue Zones committee members said, from United Way of Wapello County to Job Corps to Cargill to the Silver Cord program at Ottumwa High School.
“This is about an institutional change that’s permanent,” Spoonheim said.
Blue Zones will announce in January which of the remaining communities will be named demonstration sites.
The Blue Zones initiative is not just about diet and exercise.
- Three Bulldogs receive all-conference honors OTTUMWA – Brok Hopwood continues reap the benefits of his terrific season at catcher for the Ottumwa baseball team. Hopwood, who recently was named First Team All-South Central District, was also named a First-Team All-CIML Metro Conference selectio
The Art of Kong
OTTUMWA — The Mona Lisa. Whistler's Mother. Donkey Kong? Don't be so surprised, said Walter Day, that video games and the surrounding memorabilia are being considered art. The creativity and artistic vision required to create a poster, said the found
- Urbandale comes back to beat Ottumwa Midwest BOONE — Ottumwa Midwest led by seven runs in the fourth inning, but Urbandale National put together a furious comeback to steal the victory, 12-11, on Friday at the 9-10 Year Old Little League State Baseball Tournament. The top of the first saw Ottum
Parks Dept. has long list of projects
OTTUMWA — The Parks and Recreation Department has approved a list of capital improvements for the next two years that includes the installation of handicapped-accessible swings and new park bathrooms.
Fresh food improves community
OTTUMWA — Every summer across the Midwest, food stands pop up on gravel roads, and farmers markets are filled with a variety of home-grown products. Finding a fresh selection of healthy greens and juicy fruits isn't as hard as you might think. Accord
- A Heartfelt Miracle OTTUMWA — It’s funny how wishes can change so completely in just a few weeks. But laughter wasn’t the reaction of Jeff and Mary Penrod.The Ottumwa couple’s son, Brandon, was 18 years old when, in February, Mary took him to the Pella clinic to get loo
River Hills expansion progresses
OTTUMWA — Expanding River Hills Community Health Center downtown continues to be a priority with the Ottumwa City Council. Earlier this week, the council authorized city staff to survey the property, prepare a draft developers agreement as well as pr
- Street repair program begins OTTUMWA — If you think roadwork projects in the city of Ottumwa are just about complete, think again. This week, the Ottumwa City Council awarded its preventative maintenance contract for sealing cracks in asphalt and concrete pavement roads througho
- A new look OTTUMWA — The 300 block of East Main Street in Ottumwa will be getting a facelift. During a public hearing earlier this week, the Ottumwa City Council gave its OK to the plans and specifications to renovate 15 buildings’ storefronts in downtown Ottum
City won't tolerate bad behavior
OTTUMWA — A newly designed policy to establish standards of behavior was presented to Ottumwa City Council on Tuesday night.The new policy’s introduction on Tuesday, demands city staff and elected officials exhibit professional behavior when they int
- More Ottumwa Headlines