The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative announced this morning that Iowa has placed in the top 10 in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for a second consecutive year. Iowa ranked No. 10 in the 2013 state rankings and was one of just four states to have shown year-over-year improvement in their overall well-being scores each year since 2010.


Iowa's goal when Gov. Terry Branstad announced the initiative in 2011 was to make the state the healthiest in the nation by 2016, as measured by the index. Iowa moved into the top 10 in the 2012 index, moving up to No. 9 from No. 16 in 2011. When the initiative was announced, Iowa was No. 19 relative to other states.


"There is still a lot of work to do, but Iowans continue to demonstrate they are committed to taking tangible steps toward higher levels of health and well-being," said Ric Jurgens, president of the Healthiest State Initiative board of directors.


Iowa's index number for 2013 was 68.2; the states' index numbers ranged from a high of 70.4 for North Dakota to a low of 61.4 for West Virginia. The index is based on six separate measurements: life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access to medical services, as reported by residents based on daily telephone surveys by Gallup.


Research shows a strong link between well-being, health care costs and engagement in the workplace. Each point in well-being improvement equates to a statistically significant decrease in the likelihood of hospital admission and emergency room visits and in the likelihood of incurring health care costs. For a community, the achievement of higher well-being for its citizens yields competitive advantages for economic development and job creation.


As a key part of the initiative, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Healthways partnered to bring the Blue Zones Project, a community-based well-being improvement program, to Iowa. Fifteen Iowa communities are now designated as Blue Zones Project sites, and two of those cities, Spencer and Cedar Falls, have achieved Blue Zones Community certification. Additionally, more than 150,000 Iowans statewide have pledged their support for the Blue Zones Project.


"We are so proud of Iowans for accepting the challenge to make Iowa the healthiest state and the communities that have embraced the Blue Zones principles to make life-changing improvements to their environments," said Laura Jackson, Wellmark executive vice president and vice chair of the Healthiest State Initiative. "The hard work being done in each community is a testament to the passion Iowans can demonstrate when something like their health and longevity is the goal."