Guest Columnist

Help Iowa become a leader in health

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The numbers are startling. Since 1988, the obesity rate in Iowa has increased from 14 percent to 32 percent. Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports by the time today’s kids are 35, half will be obese. Obesity continues to be one of the costliest conditions among health insured consumers in Iowa.

The U.S. is experiencing an unsustainable disease burden; more than 133 million Americans, or 45 percent of the population, have at least one chronic condition. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Iowa’s statistics are particularly troubling — we rank No. 39 for obesity and No. 28 for inactivity.

When a problem looms large we can do two things: Sit back, do nothing and wait for things to deteriorate further, or we can get moving, get healthy and take back our well-being. Live Healthy Iowa is committed to acting and making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation. Like us, you may have your own health goals. Whether you want to run a 5K with your daughter, play on the floor with your grandkids, or have your clothes fit better — achieving these goals starts by getting moving.

In many ways, we live more stressful lives than we did decades ago. Families are under pressure to earn more, kids participate in an abundance of activities, health care costs are skyrocketing, and even though chronic health conditions are on the rise, people are living longer — but not necessarily better. Nearly 25 percent of women and 18 percent of men cope with their stress by eating more. The good news is that more than half say they are exercising more, and this is where a healthier lifestyle begins.

It’s imperative we get moving more, which is why we’ve created Live Healthy Iowa’s Active Index. The Active Index is a measurable county-based tool geared toward encouraging Iowans — of all ages and activity levels — to engage in healthy and active opportunities. Rankings in the Active Index are based on county members’ level of participation in four of Live Healthy Iowa’s challenges and events during the calendar year — 10 Week Wellness Challenge, Live Healthy Iowa 5K, The Next Step Challenge and Kid’s Fall Fitness Day/Healthiest State Walk as well as the Summer Iowa Games and Winter Iowa Games, hosted by the Iowa Sports Foundation.

When individuals care more about their health, it often extends to family, friends and neighbors contributing to a healthier and more active state.

Since 2002, Live Healthy Iowa has helped more than 339,000 participants shed over 1.2 million pounds and log nearly 661 million minutes of physical activity through its annual 10 Week Wellness Challenge.

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We can’t afford to keep putting our health on the back burner. It’s time we start leading the nation in positive health statistics before we each become a statistic ourselves.

• Dr. Amy Michelle Willcockson is the director of Live Healthy Iowa. Comments: dramy@livehealthyiowa.org. Chuck Long is executive director and chief executive officer of the Iowa Sports Foundation and a former quarterback for the University of Iowa. Comments: chuck.long@iowasportsfoundation.org.

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