The Eskimo Pie - a chocolate covered ice cream bar - was invented in Iowa by Onawa native Chris Nelson. In the years following the birth of this decadent treat, the Iowa obesity rate increased to 27%. Recently, the Iowa Department of Public Health launched the Healthy Iowans 2010 program to promote health and wellness among the state’s residents in a realistic way. In order to accomplish this, the IDPH lists several wellness strategies, which include:
• The promotion of health for all ages
• The promotion of physical activity and nutrition
• The prevention and management of chronic disease
The division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention has established programs to encourage healthy living among Iowans by educating residents on issues of wellness. One such program, Iowans Fit for Life, brings state and local partners together to build a network of health-conscious citizens dedicated to nutrition and exercise. This initiative aims to improve the health of Iowans by reducing the risks and preventing disease related to inactivity and unhealthy eating behaviors. Currently, there are more than 500 partners in the network.
One way the IDHP measures state-wide health success is by tracking the consumption of fruits and vegetables among Iowans. Currently, health professionals urge Americans to eat 9-10 servings of produce every day, while dietary guidelines put the minimum consumption at 5 servings per day. Sadly, even the reminder for kids to "strive for five" fails to convey the importance of vegetables in a child's diet. Although Iowans eat fewer fruits and veggies than the national average, there appears to be a direct correlation between consumption of fruits and vegetables and physical activity. In this case, eating vegetables does not cause someone to exercise, and physical activity does not cause a person to eat vegetables, but rather, adults who make healthy decisions in one area of their lives, tend to make healthy decisions in other areas as well. As a result, tracking vegetable consumption can be a good indicator of increased physical activity as well as decreased health risks in the future.
The Iowa Department of Public Health has instituted at least one comprehensive program to improve the overall health and wellbeing of Iowans, but like many states, Iowa still has a long way to go!