Extension News

Lighten Up Iowa Moves Iowa into Top 10 List

12/20/2005

AMES, Iowa --  Iowa has cracked the top 10 in healthiest state rankings for 2005. “That’s a step up from 11th place in 2004,” said Ruth Litchfield, Iowa State University Extension nutritionist. “While most of the country has stalled in the last five years in terms of improving overall health, Iowa is improving.”

Although the rates of overweight and obesity have continued to increase nationwide, Litchfield says the Lighten Up Iowa program has helped Iowans counter that trend. “The number of states in the country that have more than 25 percent of their adult population classified as obese doubled from four to nine between 2003 and 2004, while Iowa maintained status quo,” Litchfield said.

America’s Health Rankings released by the United Health Foundation at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting recently is a comprehensive annual assessment of the relative healthiness of United States residents.

“While the overall health of the nation has improved more than 18 percent over the 16 years that information has been compiled, progress has leveled off considerably,” Litchfield said. “Annual improvements over the last five years have been about one fifth as great as those seen during the 1990s.”

Since 1990, the rate of motor vehicle deaths in the United States decreased from 2.6 to 1.2 deaths per 100,000,000 miles driven. However, the prevalence of obesity nearly doubled-- from 12.8 percent to 23.5 percent of the population since 1990. Additional information on America’s Health Rankings is available at http://www.unitedhealthfoundation.org/shr2005/Findings.html.

Litchfield said several factors contributed to Iowa’s improved ranking. “Our uninsured population numbers decreased two percent and our immunization coverage for children ages 19 to 35 months increased five percent.”

“The two largest factors that have slowed the rate of overall health improvement in Iowa and the United Sates are obesity and smoking,” Litchfield said.

“One of the best ways Iowans can help fight the obesity epidemic is by joining with friends or co-workers in forming a Lighten Up Iowa team,” Litchfield said. “Research has repeatedly shown that group support plays a vital role in the success of weight management programs. The materials and activities offered through Lighten Up Iowa are designed to promote sound nutrition and encourage physical activity.”

The 2006 Lighten Up Iowa program begins January 18. For more information or to register visit www.LightenUpIowa.org. Lighten Up Iowa is a partnership of the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Games and Iowa State University Extension.

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Contacts :

Ruth Litchfield, Ph.D., Food Science and Human Nutririon, (515) 294-9484, litch@iastate.edu
Deborah Martinez, Coordinator of Lighten Up Iowa, (888) 777-8881, deborah@iowagames.org
Tim Lane, Iowa Department of Public Health, (515) 281-7833, tlane@idph.state.ia.us

Diane Nelson, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-3178, dinelson@iastate.edu