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Iowa places in top ten of Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index state rankings for second consecutive year

Posted February 20, 2014 in Web Exclusives

DES MOINES, Iowa – Feb. 20, 2014 – The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative announced today that Iowa has placed in the top 10 in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® U.S. state rankings of well-being for a second consecutive year. The Well-Being Index is compiled from a daily survey that measures key aspects of Americans’ well-being such as physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare to create a composite well-being rank for each state.

Iowa ranks No.10 in the 2013 state rankings, placing the state in an elite group. Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, and Vermont are the only other states in the U.S. with back-to-back Top 10 rankings for 2012 and 2013. Of those seven states, only Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, and Vermont have shown improvement in their overall well-being score each year since 2010.

“We have improved our measures each year since 2010, with the goal of moving closer to being the nation’s healthiest state,” said Ric Jurgens, President, Healthiest State Initiative Board of Directors. “There is still a lot of work to do, but Iowans continue to demonstrate they are committed to taking tangible steps toward higher levels of health and well-being.”

The Well-Being Index is the official measurement tool of the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative and the Blue Zones Project®. Wellmark and Healthways partnered to bring the Blue Zones Project to Iowa as the centerpiece of the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative. The Blue Zones Project in Iowa represents the largest community well-being improvement initiative ever launched. The project is based on Blue Zones principles gathered from places around the world where people naturally live longer, happier and more productive lives with lower rates of chronic disease and a higher quality of life.

Fifteen Iowa communities are Blue Zones Project demonstration sites, with two of those cities, Spencer and Cedar Falls, achieving Blue Zones Community® certification. More than 150,000 Iowans statewide have pledged their support for the Blue Zones Project, and all Iowans and all Iowa businesses can access resources and tools online at

“We are so proud of Iowans for accepting the challenge to make Iowa the Healthiest State and the communities that have embraced the Blue Zones principles to make life-changing improvements to their environments,” said Wellmark Executive Vice President and Vice Chair of the Healthiest State Initiative, Laura Jackson. “The hard work being done in each community is a testament to the passion Iowans can demonstrate when something like their health and longevity is the goal.”

Research shows a strong link between well-being, healthcare costs and engagement in the workplace. Each point in well-being improvement equates to a statistically significant percent decrease in the likelihood of hospital admission and emergency room visits and in the likelihood of incurring healthcare costs.

For a community, the achievement of higher well-being for its citizens yields competitive advantage for economic development and job creation. For employers, it means greater productivity and better health in the workforce and dependent families, resulting in better business performance. For individuals, it simply means living well, longer.

Thousands of Iowans have quit smoking since the Healthiest State Initiative was introduced, which by itself equates to millions of dollars in savings in healthcare-related costs for Iowa. Iowans also made strides in 2013 by eating produce more frequently, going to the dentist regularly, and learning new and interesting things, all of which contribute to greater well-being.

“The 2013 Well-Being Index findings provide further validation of the effectiveness of the Blue Zones Project in transforming the well-being of Iowa,” said Ben R. Leedle, Jr., Healthways CEO and president. “We are measurably improving health and quality of life by taking a holistic approach to addressing not only physical health but also the social and emotional factors that are pivotal to overall well-being. Sustained transformation depends on having a built environment and social policies that support and reinforce communities. In Iowa, we have had the opportunity over the past few years to see first-hand the impact that the Blue Zones Project can have. We look forward to further improvement in Iowa in 2014 and beyond.”

To access the “State of American Well-Being: 2013 State Rankings and Analysis,” report visit The full “State of American Well-Being: 2013 State, Community and Congressional District Analysis” will be available online in April at

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 WBI. 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 and Thrive—both published by National Geographic books. In 2009, Blue Zones applied the tenets of the books to Albert Lea, Minn. and successfully raised life expectancy and lowered health care costs for city workers by 40 percent. Blue Zones takes a systematic, environmental approach to well-being which focuses on optimizing policy, building design, social networks, and the built environment. The 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.

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