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Hy-Vee Inc. has thrown its support behind the Healthiest State Initiative, a privately led, publicly endorsed campaign that will encourage individuals, businesses, organizations and communities to work together to improve Iowans’ overall health and well-being.
The goal of the initiative is to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation within five years, as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Iowa currently ranks 19th among the states, according to this measure.
“The good news is that we as individuals control 70 percent of the factors influencing our health,” said Ric Jurgens, Hy-Vee’s CEO. “We don’t need to make big, dramatic changes in order to see measurable improvement. Taking simple steps to eat wisely, move naturally and create stronger relationships at home, at work and in the community will take Iowans a long way toward our goal of becoming the healthiest state.”
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad introduced Jurgens as one of three co-chairs of the initiative, along with John Forsyth, CEO of Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Doug Reichardt, chairman emeritus of Holmes Murphy & Associates and chairman of the Iowa Sports Foundation. Assisting them in this effort is a coalition of stakeholders that includes leaders from the business, government, education, healthcare and nonprofit sectors.
“The Healthiest State Initiative will assist Iowans in learning about and applying proven methods to live longer, happier and healthier lives,” Branstad said. He noted that improving the health of Iowans over the next five years will allow the state to save as much as $16 billion in health care costs and lost worker productivity, money that can be redirected to growing the state’s economy and attracting new business.
Jurgens said the Healthiest State Initiative will focus on engaging Iowans at the grassroots level and providing resources to help them make practical, sustainable lifestyle changes that will lead to better health. Jurgens acknowledged that raising Iowa from 19th to first on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is an ambitious goal, but “Iowans have demonstrated time and again that they don’t shy away from a challenge,” he said. “We have a unique ability, when we wrap our arms around a project, to accomplish some amazing things.”
The initiative has been endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama, who wrote, “Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative is what’s ‘Let’s Move!’ is all about: bringing families, businesses, communities and faith-based organizations to the table to improve the health of America's families.”
As a first step, Iowans are invited to take part in a Start Somewhere Walk on Oct. 7. At noon that day, communities, neighborhoods, schools, businesses, churches and other groups across the state will gather to walk one kilometer (.62 miles, or about eight blocks) as a way to demonstrate their support for the Healthiest State goal. Individuals can find Start Somewhere walks near them, or learn how to organize walks in their communities, by visiting the Healthiest State website.
A centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative is the Blue Zones Project, through which 10 communities will be selected to receive national assistance in becoming a Blue Zone, a geographically defined area where people live measurably longer, healthier lives.
West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating 233 retail stores in eight Midwestern states with total 2010 sales of $6.9 billion.