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When the Blue Zones Project pilot started in Albert Lea, MN in 2009, many people wondered aloud whether or not the initiative would have lasting power. Albert Lea has exceeded expectations and made policy and environmental changes and deepened their social networks to improve their health and well-being for years. Here’s a list of things the city has done since the project ended.
- Went from 14% to 23% of employees in tobacco free worksites
- Established tobacco free multi-unit housing
- Added a Blue Zones® Checkout Lane that only offers healthy “grab and go” options at the local Hy-Vee
- Improved nutrition in schools with a healthy snack cart, Farm to School efforts, school gardens and more improved vending policies
- Continued Walking School Buses
- Increased community activity with additional bike lanes, a new boat house with rental equipment, 18-hold disc golf and adaptive swings at the park
- Drove community volunteerism and improvement — especially through mural painting on cinderblock buildings
- Held Purpose Workshops
- Provided annual worksite wellness awards
- Increased community outreach and more business partners
“The Blue Zones Project helped our community set amazing, aggressive, and achievable strategies that moved the public health agenda further in ten months than I could have expected in ten years.” – Lois Ahern, Director of Freeborn County Health (retired)
In June 2012, Albert Lea formally dedicated their recently completed five-mile walking, jogging and biking route around Fountain Lake called the Blue Zones® Walkway. This route that now goes all the way around the lake is part of an additional 3.1 miles of newly connected sidewalks and trails that go through neighborhoods, parks, downtown and past the local hospital. City officials plan to install kiosks around the walkway identifying the Blue Zones Power 9® – the nine principles for improving health and longevity identified from the healthiest and longest-lived places in the world.
Way to go, Albert Lea!