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Reducing state's waistlines and improving overall health is a community effort

Armen Hareyan's picture

Fight Obesity

Imagine Iowa 20 years from now. Children are walking and riding bikes to school, backpacks are filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Families eat dinner together, then play outside. Iowa's trail system is connected as its roads and sidewalks are once again in communities. Diabetes is on the decline. Iowans are well-rested and have improved mental well-being. Iowa is a healthy community.

Healthy communities are a real and reachable vision of Iowans Fit for Life, the state's nutrition and physical activity plan. The plan brings together organizations from across the state concerned with nutrition and physical activity to prevent and reduce obesity in Iowa.

"Obesity is not only a personal issue, but a community and state issue. It will take the work of all Iowans to reverse the trends of obesity," said Governor Tom Vilsack. "To reduce obesity, we must use creative and innovative approaches that truly impact Iowans. It is our responsibility to provide all Iowans with the healthiest environment in which to live, learn, work and recreate."

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The goal of Iowans Fit for Life is to improve quality of life and reduce obesity-related diseases and medical expenditures. Iowans can immediately benefit from improved nutrition and increased physical activity.

"It's unacceptable that today's children may have a shorter life span than their parents because of obesity," said IDPH Director Mary Mincer Hansen, R.N., Ph.D. "A majority of our counties have identified obesity as a serious health problem; therefore, it's essential our children, adults and seniors have the opportunities to get active and eat healthy."

Impacting Iowa communities is the goal behind the Iowans Fit for Life obesity prevention grants. In 2006, the state legislature appropriated $60,000 to give six community grants for nutrition and physical activity to prevent obesity. Each community will receive $10,000 to increase access to nutrition and physical activity: Adair County Board of Health/Adair County Home Care (Adair), Community Health Partners (Hawarden), Dallas County Public Nursing Service (Perry), Eastern Iowa Community College District (Davenport), Healthy Henry County Communities (Mt. Pleasant), and Washington County Public Health and Home Care (Washington).

Currently, 1.3 million Iowa adults are overweight or obese and obesity related problems cost Iowans $783 million annually. Only 46 percent of Iowa adults get enough physical activity and only 20 percent enough fruits and vegetables.