The Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health says the state is moving ahead with its “Iowans Fit for Life” program designed to get the state into better physical shape. Department Director Mary Mincer Hansen said Thursday the program will use a “partnership” of all sorts of groups.
Hansen says, “From schools to scouts, businesses to local government, faith based to civic groups, policymakers to individuals, the Iowans Fit for Life partnership that we’re having here today will be essential to turn the tide.” Mincer Hansen says they’re doing a “work plan” and blue print on what they need to do in Iowa to address “this very important issue.”
Hansen says it’s very evident that Iowa has a big problem. Mincer Hansen says the “obesity epidemic” has led to 60-percent of Iowa adults being overweight or obese and approximately 40-percent of kids are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Mincer Hansen says the obesity epidemic creates many problems. Mincer Hansen says being overweight leads to diabetes, joint problems and lack of self esteem in both kids and adults.
Mincer Hansen says part of the effort is already underway as the state legislature provided 60-thousand dollars for community grants. Mincer Hansen says six grants were awarded for various health-related pilot projects. The projects include parent-child cooking and nutrition classes with a chef, walking school bus so kids can walk to school in safety, re-instituting crossing guards so kids can walk to school, busing kids to a wellness center and providing the kids healthy treats.
Mincer Hansen says the pilot projects have shown how communities can make an impact on the health of kids. Mark Fenton is a champion walker and host of the P-B-S series “America’s Walking.” Fenton says there are many things in the works communities can do to help people get fit. Fenton says an example is planning a mix of housing and retail areas in developments so people can walk to shopping areas.
Fenton says many of the improvements don’t cost a lot of money — but he says they do take some political will to push through the changes. Fenton says the changes often pay unexpected dividends. He says there’s evidence to show the housing values are higher for communities that’re well designed to be friendly for walking and biking. Fenton says good decisions in many cases aren’t about the money, they’re about the vision and guts to go out and do it.
Mincer Hansen says they’ll take the plans developed during their talks and will look for funding from state, federal and private sources to move forward in making the state healthier.