What's being billed as the largest event of its kind in Iowa's history will take place at noon on Friday at hundreds of locations across the state.
It's the Start Somewhere Walk scheduled simultaneously across Iowa on that autumn afternoon as we kick off the multi-year Healthiest State Initiative. We currently have 25 locations listed for Fort Dodge. To find a location nearest you please check the website at www.iowahealthieststate.com and choose the walk location. Anyone in this community - whether resident or visitor, young or old or in-between - is welcome to join a 1-kilometer walk to demonstrate a willingness to start down the path toward a healthier lifestyle.
There's one other incentive to get involved in a Start Somewhere Walk - friendly competition. Organizers of the Iowa Walk project think our state can take on the entire nation of Canada. Reaching the goal of 250,000 participants (one of every 12 of our state's 3 million citizens) will give Iowa the world record for people involved in simultaneous 1-kilometer walks. Our neighbor to the north now claims that record with 231,635 participants in simultaneous walks throughout the country in 2007. At 34 million, Canada's population is 11 times that of Iowa's.
It's bold to take on an entire country with our Start Somewhere Walk goal. But if anyone can compete - whether it's for our business environment or health and well-being - Iowans can.
Symbolic start to a serious challenge
By itself, a 1-kilometer walk won't change the health of our state. But the Start Somewhere Walks are an opportunity for all Iowans to come together and take the first step toward our ambitious goal - to become the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.
The Healthiest State Initiative - www.iowahealthieststate.com - is a privately led, public initiative intended to inspire Iowans and their communities throughout the state to improve their health and happiness. To achieve our goal, individuals, families, businesses, faith-based organizations, not-for-profits and the public sector will unite in a community-focused effort.
To measure our progress, we will use the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which tracks six areas, or "domains," that comprise our well-being. In 2010, Iowa ranked as the 19th healthiest state in the nation. While this ranking puts us solidly in the top half of the country, we can do better.
As a part of the Initiative, Iowans will have the opportunity to learn and apply proven methods to live longer, happier, healthier lives. Becoming healthier has enormous implications for Iowans and the fiscal health of the state. For example, making comprehensive lifestyle changes could allow Iowa to redirect as much as $16 billion over the next five years to other purposes such as growing the state's economy or enhancing our educational system.
This is a huge opportunity for Iowans, and here's the good news: we control 70 percent of the factors influencing our health, so it's largely within our power to make a positive difference in our lives.
We're in control
In the coming weeks, months and years, you're going to see a number of programs aimed at helping Iowans change our lives for the better. More than that, you're going to experience them.
Expect a major transformation in Iowa over the next five years, from traditional lifestyle changes (making better food and exercise decisions) to more emotionally based adjustments (taking more time to decompress and de-stress). You, your family, friends, colleagues and community will have countless opportunities to get involved in making Iowa a healthier place to live - and the healthiest state in the nation.
The Healthiest State Initiative will help us do it. And it all begins at noon on Friday with the Start Somewhere Walks.
Jason Major is the store director of Hy-Vee Drugstore in Fort Dodge.