FL: How did you choose Albert Lea?

DB: The University of Minnesota helped us find the profile of the town we wanted. We wanted a town that was statistically average when it comes to heart disease, cancer, rates of obesity. And we wanted the right size because we only had a certain budget and we wanted to affect the entire town. We couldn't take on Chicago. We had a budget for a place much smaller. Then we went on a road show. We went to five towns that met our criteria and showed them the Blue Zones, showed them a model of what we could aspire to with people around the world. Then we unveiled our "Blue Print," a change in the environment. And then we issued an [request for proposal], and all five of them came back. But Albert Lea provided the most convincing and compelling story for how they were going to make sure that all their population was going to participate.

Is the Vitality Project still going on there?

DB: The training wheels are off. We were done as of two weeks ago, but we're still involved with making sure the programs and environmental changes we implemented stay implemented. They created a Vitality Center that they can cut the ribbon on. They started getting funding: United Health Foundation gave them funding, AARP gave them funding, YMCA gave them funding and the Mayo Clinic. So this idea is going to live on in Albert Lea, and we're there to facilitate it when we can, but we're focusing on taking the idea and bringing it to a bigger city.


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