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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Iowans walk to become fittest nation over next five years

By Gabe Singer

Looking for a way to walk off the fried butter you enjoyed at the Iowa State Fair? Join Governor Terry Branstad’s new “Iowa Healthiest State Initiative,” aiming to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation, up from its current rank of 19. And you won’t have to go far; Grinnell has been chosen as one of two pilot cities for Branstad’s state-wide initiative.

“[The initiative] will assist Iowans in learning about and applying proven methods to live longer, happier and healthier lives,” Branstad said.

The initiative could redirect as much as $16 billion to the state, money that would otherwise have gone towards health care and lost productivity due to health related issues. Branstad’s admits that jumping 18 positions to first place is “an ambitious goal” by 2016, he believes that if anyone is up to the task, it’s the people of Iowa.

The health wave starts with a 1K walk called the “Start Somewhere Walk.” By participating in this walk, Iowa residents can show support for Branstad’s initiative and commit to a healthier lifestyle.

During the walk, Grinnell residents will gather in ten designated locales of the city to walk one kilometer as a demonstration of their support for the new initiative.

The preliminary events of this initiative, including today’s 1K Walk, will be closely documented through photographs, attendance counts and aerial footage. State leaders will closely analyze the turnout in preparation for the initiative’s official kickoff taking place on Oct. 7 in over 900 communities across the state.

Leaders around the city of Grinnell and on the College campus are getting excited about the great potential for positive change that the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative presents.

Grinnell’s City Clerk and Finance Officer P. Kay Cmelik believes that once the initiative goes into full effect the city can expect to see residents become more active in a number of ways.

“We will see increased activity … people making healthier choices for themselves and their families,” Cmelik said.

This will be made possible, according to Cmelik, by both state and local promotion of the healthy initiatives.

In addition to the Grinnell residents, members of the College are also optimistic about the initiative. The College’s pilot role in the initiative, according to Wellness Coordinator Jen Jacobsen, provides the City with an opportunity to set a participation example for the rest of the state, referring to Grinnell’s second place standing in last spring’s statewide Bike to Work Week.

“This is a great conversation to be having on the state wide level,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen continued to explain some challenges of the initiative, which involve confronting the misconceptions many Iowans have about health. The initiative’s success, according to Jacobsen, will depend on social support and “being creative about reaching some of the underserved populations.”

The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative is the state’s most ambitious step towards advocating for major changes in health and wellness and providing the resources for people to make positive changes.

Anyone interested in participating can join other members of the community at any of the following locations at 1 p.m.: Ahrens Park, Central Park, Grinnell College, Iowa Valley CC, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance, Grinnell Regional Medical Center or by the Grinnell bike trail at the entrance to Wal-Mart.

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