Iowa stumbles in bid to become healthiest state

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Step by step, a state already on the move has some ground to make up. That's after a new study released Tuesday shows Iowa's health ranking is dropping.

"We all eat too much," said Jan Treftz-Allen, health promotion manager for Genesis Health System. "Everybody wants to take the magic pill. But the truth is, we all need to stop eating so much food."

The United Health Foundation rankings dropped the Hawkeye state from 17th place to 20th. Neighboring Illinois comes in at 30th place, 10 states lower.

Iowans already tackle many of the topics in the national research. That includes breaking the cycle of obesity, bad habits and unhealthy choices. This study is a wake-up call for wellness.

"Everybody talks about needing an hour of exercise a day," she continued. "I don't think any of us gets even 15 minutes a day."

The news comes as a blow to Iowa. It's aiming to become the healthiest state by 2016. But reaching that goal will take dedication and hard work.

Iowa peaked at fifth place 21 years ago. It's been going downhill ever since.

Just moving around is a way to trigger a turnaround. But sometimes finding a pedestrian-friendly area can make it tough to even cross the street safely.

"Making sure we have access to biking trails, walking trails," Treftz-Allen said. "I think the Quad Cities needs to make some real changes in that regard."

The Blue Zone project is helping Iowa communities to improve diet and exercise while building more social communities. Those results aren't yet showing up in the rankings.

"I think our whole country needs a call to action," she concluded. "I think we're real aware of that."

Step by step, using the numbers to create a more healthier Iowa.