Blue Zones Project sponsored by Wellmark

Blue Zones Project sponsored by Wellmark

OSKALOOSA, Iowa – February 27, 2014 – Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) announced today the hiring of Natalie Ferguson Spray as Community Program Manager, Danny Heggen as Project Manager, Valinn McReynolds as Organization Lead and Miranda Cummings as Engagement Lead for the Blue Zones Project® in Oskaloosa. The local staff will be responsible for implementing Blue Zones® programs and principles as Oskaloosa works towards Blue Zones Community® Certification.

“The Oskaloosa team is ready to lead and ignite our community and is committed to providing healthy choices to increase the overall well-being in the place we call home,” said Natalie Spray, Community Program Manager. “We look forward to transforming Oskaloosa together.”

Brought to Iowa through an innovative sponsorship by Wellmark in collaboration with Healthways and Blue Zones, the Blue Zones Project initiative encourages all Iowa communities to change their built environments to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The Blue Zones Project is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative, designed to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016. This status is measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents’ health and well-being.

In January 2013, Oskaloosa was named a Blue Zones Project demonstration site. Oskaloosa and the 14 other demonstration communities in Iowa are receiving assistance from national experts to develop and implement a Blueprint for making permanent environmental, social and policy changes that transition people into healthier behaviors that can lead to longer, happier lives.

Blue Zones Project Oskaloosa team:

Natalie Ferguson Spray, Community Program Manager
As Community Program Manager, Spray will lead the transformation of Oskaloosa into a Blue Zones Community through the adoption and implementation of a community-wide well-being improvement Blueprint. Spray a native to Oskaloosa and graduate from William Penn University comes to us from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach where she was a Program Coordinator; providing administrative and leadership through research-based programming to support long term change. Spray has played an active role on the Mahaska Wellness Coalition and helped co-lead Blue Zones Project demonstration site application efforts. Spray is most passionate about her 5 year old daughter and helping on the family farm. Spray enjoys volunteering, being active in the community, and staying physically fit and healthy. Spray serves as a board member for a local non-profit organization and serves on several advisory councils.

Danny Heggen, Project Manager
As Project Manager, Danny Heggen will lead development and plan implementation for community transformation initiatives, tracking progress towards Blue Zones Community Certification. Prior to joining the Blue Zones Project team, Heggen was a program coordinator for Community Youth Concepts, a non-profit in Des Moines. Though he resides in Des Moines, Heggen will spend much of his time in Oskaloosa working with the team, as well as trying to find the best cup of coffee in town. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, cooking, and playing music.

Valinn McReynolds, Organization Lead
As Organization Lead, McReynolds is responsible for the successful advancement of the Blue Zones Project in Oskaloosa by engaging employers, restaurants and grocery stores to adopt recommended changes to improve well-being and achieve the designations necessary for Oskaloosa to earn certification as a Blue Zones Community. Prior to joining the Blue Zones Project, McReynolds worked as Social Media Coordinator for William Penn University. She is very active in the Oskaloosa community, on the Main Street Business Improvement Committee, and is currently a board member of the Oskaloosa Housing Trust Fund and Mahaska County Relay for Life. In her free time she enjoys running, playing fetch with her furbaby Akira, and reading.

Miranda Cummings, Engagement Lead
As Engagement Lead, Miranda Cummings is responsible for executing the local engagement plan in Oskaloosa. She will coordinate activities with the local Blue Zones Project to maximize local participation and engagement from individuals and organizations. Cummings is an OHS alumni and recent Marketing/PR grad from Columbia College Chicago. After spending this past summer in Europe developing marketing strategies for global advertising agency DraftFCB, Cummings is prepared and excited to work on The Blue Zones Project within the community. She has chaired several committees and planned events with successful campaigns for non-profits such as The Red Dress Party, Y-Me Breast Cancer Foundation and most recently State Farm’s Celebrate My Drive campaign. In her free time she loves cuddling with her dog, Obi, or cycling through Oskaloosa’s spectacular bike trail.

For more information on the Blue Zones Project, including details on how to become a certified Blue Zones Community, visit



Posted by on Feb 27 2014. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Comments are closed


Search Archive

Search by Date
Search by Category
Search with Google
Log in | Copyright by Oskaloosa News