ISU profs help Iowans get fit by the year 2010

Matt Kuhns

More than 300 Iowans from a broad range of professions assembled recently to chart Iowa’s health and prevention agenda for the new millennium.

The conference titled “Kickoff for Healthy Iowans 2010” was held in Des Moines on Oct. 30.

“The Healthy Iowans 2010 process … is a road map that will help us achieve our goal of healthy Iowans in healthy communities,” said Christopher Atchison, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.

This plan is a follow-up to Healthy Iowans 2000, which was created to draw increased attention to long-term health goals such as statewide immunization and reduced teen smoking.

Due in part to Healthy Iowans 2000, Iowa has consistently been ranked in the top 10 on lists of the healthiest states in the nation, Atchison said.

Healthy Iowans 2010 also is a counterpart to the nationwide Healthy People 2010 program.

Mary Jane Oakland, professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State, said Healthy People 2010 will establish “public health goals for the nation.” She said each state worked on its own set of goals as well.

Oakland said both plans address similar topics, but states customize their plans to take into account differences such as the distribution of the population between rural and urban areas.

Oakland, who worked on the nutrition chapters during the Healthy Iowans 2010 conference, said the plan’s most valuable use will be directing resources.

By assessing needs across the spectrum of health-related issues, Oakland said programming money can be spent where it will be most useful.

Last month’s conference was only the first step in drafting the new plan, which will be completed next fall. Oakland said the main goal of the first conference was to establish top areas for investigation.

Among some of the subjects Oakland and her colleagues targeted were the percentage of overweight Iowans and the need for more fruits and vegetables in the average diet.

“We’ve had a really hard time increasing fruit and vegetable consumption,” Oakland said, adding that the issue is especially significant because of its connection to disease.

The new Healthy Iowans plan addresses some of the changes in health needs of Iowans that have occurred since the previous plan was established. As an example, Oakland said gambling addiction is a much more serious problem now than 10 years ago.

In attempting to develop a comprehensive health agenda for the state, the conference invited professionals with a variety of experiences, from early nutrition to needs of the elderly.

“I was amazed by what a wide spectrum of folk were there,” Oakland said.