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Iowa Gets $842000 To Fight Obesity

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

How do you begin a conversation about someone's weight? How does a community begin to address obesity in their schools, workplaces, and elsewhere? How do you get people to spend less time in front of the TV and more time on sidewalks and in the produce section of the supermarket?

Those were some of the tough questions posed by the Iowans Fit for Life Partnership in their successful grant application to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With the $842,721 awarded, the Partnership plans to fight obesity and overweight in Iowa by increasing opportunities for physical activity and expanding access to fruits and vegetables.

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"Obesity and overweight are killing Iowans and will continue to threaten the quality of our lives if we do not pull together and fight this epidemic head on," said Tom Newton, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), which leads the Iowans Fit for Life Partnership. "The fact that the Partnership obtained such a competitive grant is an indication of their strong commitment to making Iowa the healthiest state in the U.S."

According to the most current data from IDPH, 1.4 million (63 percent) Iowans are overweight or obese. In the last 10 years, overweight and obesity among Iowa adults has increased by 36 percent, and more than 18 percent of elementary school children in the state are already overweight. Total annual health care costs in Iowa attributable to adult obesity are estimated at $783 million, nearly one half of which is paid by Medicare or Medicaid.

Among the innovative solutions the 500-member Partnership has planned is a worksite wellness pilot project involving seven small businesses in Burlington, Iowa City, Jewell, Muscatine, Storm Lake, Washington, and Waterloo. The purpose of the 16-week program will be to provide employees with wellness assessments, education, individual goal setting strategies, and group discussions to modify individual health risks. The Partnership will also develop a toolkit to help health care providers talk to their patients about their weight, and a similar toolkit for schools to increase physical activity and the availability of fruits and vegetables on campus.