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University of Iowa News Release

April 6, 2004

UI Center Partners With Keokuk County To Promote Physical Activity

A group of Keokuk County residents and businesses, working in partnership with the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center (PRC), have initiated a community effort to make it easier for people in this southeast Iowa county to get into shape. The partnership is planning the construction of a walking and biking trail in Sigourney, Iowa, as well as several projects to address nutritional needs of Keokuk County residents.

Plans for the trail and other programs are being developed by the Keokuk County Community Health Action Partnership, composed of area elected officials, local retailers and other interested community members. The partnership is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the UI Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health. John Lowe, Dr. P.H., professor and head of community and behavioral health, is the principal investigator on the grant.

The Nutrition Working Group is holding a "Step into Spring Walk-a-Thon" throughout the month of April. More than 400 Keokuk County residents have formed teams and have been given free pedometers. Each team will compete to record the most number of steps during the month. Prizes include a Dasani bicycle and several other items donated by Keokuk County businesses.

The Walking/Biking Trail Working Group is planning the construction of a hard-surfaced, multi-use trail in Keokuk County. Group members have begun consulting with a local land-planning firm and are currently pursuing funding possibilities.

The initiatives to promote physical activity and better nutrition in Keokuk County are based on a recent health assessment survey, conducted by the Prevention Research Center, which revealed that 71 percent of participating Sigourney residents are either overweight or obese. This is significantly higher than the state obesity rate of 61 percent, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The PRC conducted the health survey in Sigourney and Marengo, Iowa, to assess the overall health status of community members. Survey measures included diet and physical activity habits as well as general health and community perceptions related to quality of life, including health behaviors and depression. In future studies, PRC researchers will investigate whether the community initiatives to promote physical activity and better nutrition result in a reduction of body mass index (BMI) among Keokuk County residents.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4261 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

CONTACTS: Media: Jennifer Cook, 319-335-8350, jennifer-a-cook@uiowa.edu; Community Health Action Partnership information: Shellie Streigel, 641-622-2519