Boone County Hospital and the Boone community are working together to help Boone County residents become healthier and more active through Iowans Fit for Life, a program sponsored by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). After participating in the Iowans Fit for Life program in 2006, Boone, Colfax and Pocahontas were the three Iowa communities chosen for this exciting pilot program. Each of the three communities will receive grant funding from the National Governors Association to develop programs using models of sustainable community partnering, planning and initiative development to increase access to physical activity opportunities and locally grown fruits and vegetables. They will also receive professional assistance from health educators with the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture.
Iowans Fit for Life is a partnership between the Iowa Department of Public Health, Boone County Hospital and the Boone community, focused on enhancing the quality of life for the local residents. In 2006, the local Iowans Fit for Life steering committee, partnering with the Boone County ISU Extension, held town meetings seeking public input on how to help the community support healthier choices. Since current statistics showed 37% of Boone County residents were characterized as overweight and almost 23% of the county was considered obese, it was determined that there was an immediate need to increase physical activity within the community. After considering several options, the committee decided to fund and build a new track and field facility at the local middle school campus creating a joint effort between the city and the school district that would benefit the entire community. The National Governors Association grant will build on these efforts and continue to assess the “walk-ability” of the Boone Community and the resident’s access to physical activity.
A second goal of the IDPH grant involves developing a plan to improve the regional food system and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for local residents. The initial project for this second phase included a program implemented last year at Franklin Elementary School in Boone, offering nutrition education and providing additional fruit and vegetable options to the students. The school district, in conjunction with a community Wellness Advisory Committee, is also currently developing a District Wellness Policy that will include offering healthier vending options within the entire school district. In 2007, the Iowans Fit for Life steering committee will continue their focus on increasing opportunities with food systems, developing connections between local producers and consumers, and working to expand the market for locally and regionally produced food.
The programs being developed and implemented in the three Iowa communities are intended to address local health concerns and may also provide additional benefits including enhanced economic development through proposed expansion of local and regional produce markets and new recreational opportunities. These communities and their experiences with the pilot program will be considered by the Governor’s Food Policy Council as they develop state policy recommendations to help design and build community food systems and then will educate people on using the systems. The National Governor’s Association will also be reviewing these programs to see how their results might be replicated and implemented within other communities.