The Iowa director of government relations for the American Cancer Society says her organization has concerns about the initiative announced today by the governor to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation in five years. The governor says it’s a “privately led but publicly endorsed initiative” and Peggy Huppert says they’re concerned about losing public dollars for health issues.

“We certainly applaud the effort, it’s a great goal to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation, but it’s a little short on specifics,” Huppert says, “we know that it’s important to continue the public investment in public health initiatives like tobacco prevention and cessation, like cancer screenings for people who are low income and uninsured, and we want to be sure that the state of Iowa continues its investment in these important programs.”

Governor Branstad’s budget cut funds for smoking cessation programs and he said today they want to reduce administrative costs and the blanket anti-smoking advertising that he says is not as effective. Huppert says the money spent on anti-smoking programs like the teen run “Just Eliminate Lies” worked.

She says 80% of people start smoking before the age of 18 and she says the data shows the best way to prevent them from smoking is through peer-to-peer contact, and she says that’s what the JEL program did. “And certain adults might disagree with the tactics that were used, but it is evidence based,” Huppert says.

Huppert says the public funds for the program were used well and she hopes the new initiative will be as successful. Huppert says they just want to make sure that “going forward it isn’t based on what one or two people think doesn’t work, that it’s based on science.”

Huppert says the plan has good motives and she likes the initiative’s wholelistic approach that looks at mental health, work environment, the community. “What we’re concerned about is saying ‘that if all you people would just eat right and exercise, we’re gonna be fine,’ that’s a simplistic approach to public health,” Huppert says.

Huppert says you have to take into account all the factors that impact a person’s health. Huppert says if you are in a “food desert” for example, where you don’t have access to healthy food, it is tougher to stay healthy. Or if you live in a bad neighborhood, it is tougher to get out and walk. She says she is interested in seeing how the proposed “Blue Zones” will work in the 10 Iowa communities chosen to get help with becoming healthier.

Huppert says the public funds are still needed for the proven programs that help people remain healthy.