Health rankings find Black Hawk near bottom of list - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Health rankings find Black Hawk near bottom of list

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

A new study measuring overall health finds Winneshiek County is the state's healthiest, for factors ranging from lowest rates of obesity, alcohol and smoking use. 

Black Hawk County, meanwhile, comes in at number 73 out of 99 counties, that's down three places from last year.  And some hope that poor ranking gives more momentum to efforts aimed at making the Cedar Valley healthier.           

Being healthy seems easy enough: eat right and exercise.  But of course making those changes is anything but simple.  That may be why Black Hawk County once again lands near the bottom of the list for overall health, according the survey just released by the University of Wisconsin.

"That's really sad news to hear," said Stephanie Wharton, Hy-Vee Dietitian.

Felicia Cass hopes the poor health ranking makes those in the Cedar Valley realize why becoming a "Blue Zones" community is so important.  Cedar Falls and Waterloo are both vying to become pilot communities in the Blue Zones contest, sponsored by Healthways, which offers funding and tools to improve health.

"Most of the changes we're talking about aren't extreme or radical changes.  It might be things like putting a sidewalk in so it's really easy to walk to the grocery store or post office.  They're things that are very doable in our community," said Felicia Cass with the Waterloo Blue Zones committee.

To get selected as a Blue Zone, Waterloo needs a lot more people to pledge their support.

"Our community participation, which is one of the major areas they're looking for, is low.  We're under five percent, and they've told us they'd like us closer to 20 percent," Cass said.

But beyond the Blue Zones project, there are simple steps everyone can take to get healthier. 

"When you're trying to grocery shop and be healthier, stay in the perimeter of a grocery store, with the produce, meat department, and then dairy.  That's the best way to get the least ingredients and the most natural, healthy foods," Wharton said.

And new studies show just 30 minutes of walking a day, even if it's split up into three 10 minute sessions, can also be a significant step in improving your health.

You can find more information about pledging support for Blue Zones communities here.  (To vote for Waterloo, you can also text BXP to 772937 from your cell phone.)

To see the "Health By County" report, and see where your community ranks, click here.

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