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Decorah is among 10 towns announced Wednesday as one of the small communities selected to receive site visits for the Blue Zones Project.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield also announced the following communities were chosen to compete to be a demonstration site: Algona, Audobon, Fairfield, Harlan, Osage, Red Oak, Spirit Lake, St. Ansgar and Woodbine.

Once the site visits are completed this summer, several towns will be selected as Blue Zones demonstration sites.

Those winners will receive expert advice to help residents improve their emotional, physical and social health through environmental and policy changes.

Just Tuesday, Winneshiek County, where Decorah is located in northeast Iowa, was named healthiest of the state’s 99 counties in a separate report.

Blue Zones, a concept introduced by author Dan Buettner in his best-selling book by the same name, is a cornerstone of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, with a goal of making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.

In all, 54 Iowa communities submitted applications for the project.

Wellmark is contributing $25 million over a five-year period to fund the initiative.

In February, Cedar Rapids was named as one of 11 larger cities competing to become a demonstration site in a separate category. Those demonstration sites are expected to be announced in May.

Joining Cedar Rapids are Ames, Cedar Falls, Clinton, Davenport, Mason City, Muscatine, Ottumwa, Sioux City, Spencer and Waterloo.

By Cindy Hadish

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