When it comes to taking care of their health, research shows Iowans have cut down on smoking and improved their diets, but many still don’t get enough exercise to live the longest, healthiest lives. To encourage overall health improvement among the area’s and the state’s residents, the American Heart Association in Iowa is changing its mission, from focusing primarily on cardiovascular issues to a more holistic approach.
Executive Director Kayla Kovarna says the organization’s new mission is to be a “relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.”
Kovarna believes Iowa communities could benefit significantly if more people had better access to a wider variety of exercise options, and more nutritious food choices – especially in areas of Des Moines, where there are several so-called “food deserts.”
Des Moines recently implemented “Move DSM” – the first citywide, multi-modal vision for transportation. State AHA Government Relations Director Stacy Frelund hopes it will be a model for other communities to make biking and walking easier and more accessible.
Kovarna says getting kids and adults exercising more is critical, based on a new report that showed Iowa is now one of the top three states in the nation for a significant increase in obesity, 35% over the past 12 years.
Iowa was the only state in the top seven with obesity gains not located in the southern half of the U.S..