More than 297,000 Iowans walked to support the Healthiest State Initiative on Wednesday, topping last year’s walk count by approximately 6,000 walkers.
“Once again, Iowans turned out in extraordinary numbers to support our effort to become the healthiest state in the nation,” said Ric Jurgens, chair of the Healthiest State Initiative board. “A one-kilometer walk, by itself, won’t change a person’s health. But participating in the Healthiest State Walk sends a message about our commitment as Iowans to our ambitious goal. It brings communities and colleagues together to say, ‘We’re going to do this.’”
In August 2011, Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds announced the plan to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation within five years as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In 2011, Iowa ranked 16th compared to all other states, moving up from the 19th position in 2010.
Iowans made other good strides during the first year of the Healthiest State Initiative. Eighty-four Iowa communities indicated an interest in becoming Blue Zones Project demonstration sites and the first four were announced in May. The Blue Zones Project applies knowledge from communities where people live longer, healthier lives to create environmental and policy changes designed to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Six additional demonstration sites will be selected and a new program designed for small communities also has been created.
In addition, during its first year the Healthiest State Initiative helped shine a spotlight on the state’s well-being challenge, highlighted existing programs and developed new programs such as a healthy restaurant entrée pilot program and Laugh Out Loud Day. In August, the Initiative sponsored the opening ceremonies at the Iowa State Fair and co-sponsored a mobile application to help find healthy food options at the Fair.
According to Jurgens, the Healthiest State Initiative will focus in the coming year on key areas that will help improve the state’s well-being. These include efforts to promote consumption of fruits and vegetables, smoking cessation initiatives and programs to improve workplace well-being. Planning is underway for these efforts.
The Healthiest State Initiative is a privately led, public effort that engages Iowans and their communities throughout the state. It involves individuals, families, businesses, faith-based organizations, not-for-profits and the public sector in a broad-based community-focused effort. For more information, visit www.iowahealthieststate.com.