Iowa's health ranking improves in national survey

Cedar Rapids falls behind other cities

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa is moving up in its health ranking, but Cedar Rapids is losing ground, according to the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

According to the report, released today, Iowa improved from 19th in 2010 to 16th in 2011, while Cedar Rapids dropped from seventh to 50th among the 190 metropolitan areas rated.

“That doesn’t mean it’s bad news, necessarily, for Cedar Rapids,” said Healthways spokesman Bruce Middlebrooks.

Middlebrooks said even one-tenth of a percentage point can move a city several places.

“A lot has to do with the movement of other (metropolitan areas), rather than a decline in Cedar Rapids,” he said.

The index, based on daily surveys with 1,000 Americans, is the standard Iowa is using for its healthiest state initiative, an effort to make Iowa the nation’s healthiest state by 2016.

Doing so could save the state up to $16 billion over five years in health care costs and lost productivity.

Survey results for the rest of the United States, including information on 190 metropolitan areas, were released today.

Just as in 2010, Hawaii ranked No. 1 in the most recent index, while West Virginia was rated last.

Here are the top 10:

1. Hawaii

2. North Dakota

3. Minnesota

4. Alaska

5. Utah

6. Colorado

7. Kansas

8. Nebraska

9. New Hampshire

10. Montana

Scores for Cedar Rapids, one of the metropolitan areas included in the survey, dropped in many areas from the previous year.

Des Moines improved from 78th in 2010 to 41st in 2011. Council Bluffs, combined with Omaha, moved slightly from 44th to 45th and the only other Iowa metropolitan area, Davenport, combined with Moline and Rock Island, Ill., improved from 132nd to 85th.

The index uses six measurements of well-being: life evaluation; emotional health; physical health; healthy behavior; work environment and basic access.

Overall, Iowa increased .5 points in well-being in 2011.

The state’s ratings went up in every category except life evaluation, in which respondents are asked to rate their present life situation and anticipated situation five years from now.

That area, which classifies survey-takers as thriving, struggling or suffering, dropped by .4 points.

Iowa rated its best score — 85.4 — in basic access, which measures access to necessities such as clean water, medicine and shelter.

Other measurements are:

— Emotional health, including factors such as laughter, stress and anger.

— Healthy behavior, which measures smoking, eating, exercise and consumption of fruit and vegetables.

— Physical health, including factors such as sick days, obesity, rest and headaches.

— Work environment, which measures job satisfaction; ability to use one’s strengths at work; supervisor’s treatment and an open and trusting work environment.

Stephanie Neff, interim director of Linn County Public Health, said Cedar Rapids — one of 11 finalists in Iowa vying to become a Blue Zones community — is hoping to intensify its health initiatives.

The 11 cities are competing to be one of the first demonstration sites for the Blue Zones Project, a main component of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative.

Site visits for the 11 finalists begin this week, starting in Ames today.

Cedar Rapids has a visit scheduled for Thursday ( March 1).

“If Cedar Rapids is selected to be a Blue Zones community, there will be significantly more opportunities to make changes to the community to allow people to make healthier choices,” Neff said.

The top three or so cities will be announced in May as the initial Blue Zones demonstration sites.

Those communities will receive expert advice to help improve their residents’ emotional, physical and social health through environmental and policy changes, such as building trails.

Find the full report here:

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