DES MOINES, Iowa – A new report by UnityHealth published Wednesday dropped Iowa six spots in a national health ranking, but officials with the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative say the metrics used in that report don’t reflect the way they measure progress, and argue Iowans’ health has significantly progressed over the years.
“We’ve identified five focus areas that we want to work on that will help move us forward, and that includes: nutrition, tobacco, dental, workplace well-being, as well as life-long learning,” said Jami Haberl, executive director for the initiative. “And so, if we can make progress in those areas, we anticipate that our overall well-being index will move forward and help us get to that number one spot.”
The UnityHealth report aggregates data from multiple sources, such as the EPA, CDC, and FBI; additionally, the data comes from studies conducted anywhere between one and four years. Haberl argues, because different studies use different metrics, pulling all of those data sets together for a report could potentially make the result more convoluted. She argues by measuring everything consistently – and annually – as the Healthiest State Initiative does, you get a clearer picture of a state’s well-being.
UnityHealth had Iowa ranked 18th last year, and dropped the state to 24th this year. In the Healthiest State rankings, Iowa started out in 19th place, made its way to 9th last year, and dropped to 10th this year. Haberl notes every state is working hard to become healthier, and just because Iowa drops a spot or two doesn’t mean it’s doing poorly; rather, it could mean another state simply improved a greater amount than Iowa did in a year.
“We didn’t get to where we are as a society in terms of health and well-being overnight,” she said. “And we won’t continue to improve overnight. It takes time and effort.”