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.
- Local News
Ottumwan bound for Oklahoma
OTTUMWA — “We do this because we love it; we love helping people through those tough times.” That’s the message from Brandon Holstrom who will travel to Moore, Okla. today to help those impacted by the tornado that has devastated that community. Hols
- Celebrating Eldon ELDON -- The annual festival celebrating the town of less than 1,000 ties the community's bonds tighter through a weekend of music, food, performances and tournaments. American Gothic Days will take over Eldon again June 7-9. "It's the town festival,
- Lawmakers: We work together for change DES MOINES — State representatives sounded happy Thursday after their session finally ended. But they weren't just happy to be going home. “I think it was a very successful session, where we kept the budget to a sustainable level,” said Larry Sheets,
- Memorial Day weekend typically calm for parks, law enforcement OTTUMWA — With summer unofficially kicking off this weekend, area officials ask those celebrating the holiday to have fun but stay safe. Parks Director Gene Rathje said while camping in Ottumwa Park began on April 1, this weekend is the site's first
- EBF students engage in community service EDDYVILLE - The Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont School Board learned this week about community service work students recently completed throughout the area. "The students did a great job. They were engaged in some service learning opportunities in Fremo
- Iowa school reform to be optional DES MOINES -- State officials hope educators, students and parents soon start seeing changes in the classroom. But only if they want to. Parts of Gov. Terry Branstad's "blueprint for education" have been approved. But like most major issues during th
Missing teen located, returned home
SIGOURNEY — The 13-year-old girl reported missing from Hedrick on Monday has been found. The teenager, Hunter Kopp, was located at a Sigourney residence around 10 p.m. Wednesday, said Keokuk County Sheriff Deputy Jeff Runnells. "The officers last nig
Ottumwa man charged with indecent exposure
OTTUMWA -- A man has been charged with indecent exposure after passers-by noticed a teenage girl in distress Monday afternoon. Angelo Nick Orfanos, 28, of Ottumwa, was charged with indecent exposure Wednesday as a result of an Ottumwa Police Departme
Stabbing trial pushed back
OTTUMWA -- The trial of an Ottumwa man accused of stabbing another man to death has been pushed back. Twenty-year-old Brandon Seim was charged in November 2011, when he was 18, with the stabbing death of Andy Madren, 34. When officers arrived at the
- Clarification ELDON -- It looked even worse in the light of day. A Wapello County farm damaged by high winds in the storm this week, neighbors had first believed, suffered some damage. But the situation is even worse, Eldon's mayor informed the Courier, saying tha
- More Local News Headlines
- Ottumwan bound for Oklahoma