Iowa slipping in healthiest state rankings - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa slipping in healthiest state rankings

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A new study out this month brings some disappointing news for Gov. Branstad's Healthiest State Initiative, which aims to make Iowa the nation's healthiest state by 2016.

The United Health Foundation released a study called America's Health Rankings, putting Iowa as the 20th healthiest state in 2012, down from 16th place in 2011. That's the lowest Iowa has ranked in this particular study since the data began in 1990.

The study cites Iowa's high prevalence of binge drinking, for which the state is ranked 48th in the nation, infectious disease, 46th, and the availability of primary care physicians, 46th.

On a more positive note, Iowa ranks 2nd and 3rd in the US, respectively, for poor physical health days and poor mental health days.

Sarah Dickey works in the Human Resources department at the Finley Hospital. She said the Blue Zones Project, in which cities and organizations throughout Iowa have been engaged, studied the benefits of healthy workers.

"Healthy employees have less absenteeism, less health care costs for the company and they have higher productivity at the workplace," Dickey said.

Also, she said, health care reform is changing companies' and health care providers' approaches to employee and patient well-being.

"The new health care delivery model really focuses on preventative medicine instead of just reactive medicine," Dickey said. "We've become very good at taking care of the sick, but one thing we need to focus on in the future is preventing those illnesses before they become chronic illnesses."

Employers and Iowa's health initiatives alike encourage people to get out and be active, which - among other benefits - keeps employees out of the doctors' office and employers' health insurance costs lower.

Albert Dolan IV works out at Anytime Fitness in Dubuque nearly every day.

"I have a lot more energy," Dolan said. "I can't remember the last time I've been sick. I really don't get sick that often at all, like, not even the cold or the flu. Nothing really, so I'd say, you know, being active really does fight off stuff like that."

For the record, Branstad's Healthiest State Initiative is based on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The ranking that came out this month is from the United Health Foundation. Still, both studies ranked Iowa 16th in the nation for 2011.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for 2012 is expected to come out in February.

To see the latest study's results, click HERE. To see Iowa's results, specifically, click HERE.

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