To celebrate its 75th year in operation, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield wants to help its customers in Iowa and South Dakota become healthier.


The Des Moines-based health insurer announced Monday that it will award a total of $75,000 to 10 organizations that submit the best ideas for projects to improve overall health and wellness in their communities. Examples of projects include improving parks or trails in the community, establishing or improving recreational activities or improving access to healthful foods.


To be eligible for one of the $7,500 awards, applicants must be classified as a 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or governmental entity in Iowa or South Dakota. Qualified organizations can submit applications online until Aug. 5. On Aug. 20, all qualified entries will be available for the public to view and to vote for their favorite project. Public votes are one of four factors that Wellmark will use to determine winners.


"The environmental factors of the community in which a person lives, works and plays can greatly impact his or her healthy behaviors," Wellmark CEO John Forsyth said in a release. "And we know from research that up to 70 percent of an individual's health is influenced by behavior. By providing these awards as part of our 75th anniversary, we are helping communities move toward a future of better health."


In addition to the community project awards, Wellmark will sponsor several community activities in the next 75 days to thank its members and reward healthy choices. Among those will be:

  • Pop-up rewards - Be on the lookout for Wellmark employees rewarding healthy behavior with water bottles, towels or healthy snacks for activities such as taking the stairs, biking to work or exercising over lunch.
  • 75-second exercise videos - Visit for a series of videos demonstrating simple, 75-second exercises to help people get moving throughout the day.
  • Interactive jump rope - An interactive digital jump rope display will be featured at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines from Aug. 15 through Sept. 11. Come test your skills to see how many jumps you can complete in a row.
  • "Healthie" selfie - Throughout the 75 days, Wellmark will be asking for people to take a "healthie" and upload it to Facebook to win a FitBit One fitness tracker.