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This group of employees from Grundy County Memorial Hospital was one of 10 teams fielded by the hospital for the Live Healthy Iowa 100-Day Challenge.

The Live Healthy Iowa 100-Day Wellness Challenge, which ended on May 1, was a rousing statewide success and Iowa hospitals have led the way.  About 5,800 employees representing more than 50 hospitals have been participating on hospital-sponsored teams in all parts of the state.  IHA joined the fray as well with a pair of staff teams.

Hospitals are also competing in the challenge’s “Corporate Cup.”  While no hospitals were in the lead at last check, many were in the upper tier of the standings.  Corporate Cup winners will ultimately be determined by a combination of the percentage of participants from each business’s work force and the percentage of participants who complete the program.

IHA sweetened the Live Healthy Iowa and Corporate Cup pot with a $500 prize to be awarded to the top-finishing hospitals’ foundations in each of IHA’s seven districts.  Early returns indicated that the competition was heated across the board.

All told, about 33,700 Iowans signed on for the 100-Day Challenge, meaning hospitals were responsible for about 17 percent of total participation.  This is a great example of health care providers who put on their workout shoes so they could add “walking the walk” to “talking the talk.”

Indeed, talking about wellness is sometimes a major occupation of those in health care.  If it were set to music, it would likely be a monotonous tune that had worn out its welcome and certainly could not be danced to.  One might say, as Emperor Joseph II supposedly once told Mozart about one of his operas, that “there are simply too many notes.”

But efforts like Live Healthy Iowa and the Blue Zones Project offer a distinctly refreshing melody, with a populous beat that doesn’t require world-class athleticism or a fanatical fitness mentality to join in and enjoy.  What they are doing is offering a simple yet robust program that is not only unintimidating, but actually inviting.

What most people are discovering is that they are already practicing some level of wellness in their daily lives.  They desire to go further, but with a friendly nudge, as opposed to the coercive push they have at least perceived – if not actually received – from past efforts.  Live Healthy Iowa and Blue Zones offer that nudge, helping people who are well-meaning and well-intended find the purpose, camaraderie and motivation to move the needle a few degrees toward greater wellness.

Appropriately enough, it all began with the record-breaking “Start Somewhere Walk” just last fall, a literal step in the right direction that signaled a beginning, a commitment – a few degrees.  Fittingly, many hospitals hosted these walks and hundreds of hospital employees took part.  Then many hospitals led their communities into Blue Zones and continue to do so, whether they are still in the formal “model community” competition or not – a few more degrees.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index puts Iowa 16th in the nation, up three notches from about a year ago.  This is evidence that those few degrees are nudging an entire state in the right direction – from good, to great, to best in the nation.

It’s because of a wellness movement that does not beat people over the head, but provides a beat that matches our own internal drummer while inviting every participant to take it up a notch.  It’s gotten a lot of wallflowers onto the dance floor – thousands, in fact.

That should be music to every health care provider’s ear.

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