Live Healthy Iowa, a grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of Iowans across the state, held what it hopes to be the first of many meetings at Skiff Medical Center on Tuesday.
Headed up by LHI Outreach Corrdinator John Stevens, the meeting was open to public health figures and served as a starting point for implementing the program in Jasper County.
According to data presented by Stevens, Jasper County currently ranks 75th of Iowa’s 99 counties in the Iowa County Health Index, which measures various factors ranging from tobacco use to community safety to determine a county’s wellness environment.
This ranking is one of many numbers that Live Healthy Iowa, which was founded in 2002, hopes to target and eventually improve upon, explained Stevens.
Now in the third of a five-year plan designed to reach every county in Iowa, LHI designates 10 counties each year in dire need of intervention to improve residents’ general health as determined by current resources or lack thereof. On the other end of the spectrum, 10 counties with high potential for success based upon existing facilities and wellness initiatives are also named; in 2012, Jasper County made this list.
“You have a lot of positive assets that many counties quite frankly don’t have,” Stevens said.
LHI’s hallmark program lies in the Live Healthy Iowa 10 Week Wellness Challenge, a program that allows teams of both children and adults to track exercise and weight loss online and compete with other teams around the community as well as with other counties. Stevens described the program as “able to change the landscape of health in your county.”
Currently, Jasper County has 391 children and 228 adults enrolled in the program — 1.79 percent of the county’s population. Stevens would like to bump the participations numbers up to 10 percent, with a total enrollment of 1,871.
This goal, however, requires a more formalized framework for implementing LHI’s programs within the county, one of three objectives Stevens laid out in the initial meeting.
“I want you to realize how dire this epidemic of obesity and chronic illness is, and I want you to consider forming a county-wide coalition,” Stevens said, noting that this process usually takes two to three meetings, with times yet to be determined. “My job is to show you how you can use the 10 Week Challenge as the springboard and catalyst to transform people’s lifestyles.”