Oregon Challenges Iowa to Become the Healthiest State in the Nation

posted on Friday, November 14, 2014

The state of Oregon announced the launch of a wellness effort modeled after Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative. Leaders from Oregon businesses, nonprofits and public agencies gathered to introduce the Oregon Healthiest State, a cross-sector effort to collectively take on Oregon’s most pressing statewide health issues and make healthy choices abundant in every community —especially those experiencing the greatest health disparities. The kickoff event began with the Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber accepting a friendly challenge from Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. Watch Challenge Video Here

Oregon Healthiest State

Oregon is currently 25th in the Well-Being Index rankings, while Iowa ranks 10th. When Iowa launched its Initiative in 2011 the state ranked 19th. ”Iowa’s steady improvement is a credit to the dedication and collaboration of volunteers, business leaders, public health officials and cross-sections of non-profit organizations working together with all Iowans to become the healthiest state in the nation,” Jurgens said

Iowa Infographic

The Oregon Healthiest State Initiative will lead the effort, learning from the successes of the public-private partnerships championed by the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative. The Oregon group will also utilize the Blue Zones Project®, and chart progress using the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® as its measurement tool.

“We’ve been working collaboratively with Oregon leadership and the Oregon Business Council over the past year,” says Ric Jurgens, board president of the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative. “We’re delighted that Oregon is joining us in a commitment to improving well-being and look forward to sharing ideas that will help both states succeed.” Watch Governors Accept Race to Become the Healthiest State in the Nation


Oregon Healthiest State is a privately funded, publicly supported partnership first envisioned a year ago by Cambia Health Solutions, Nike, Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon Business Council, with the full support of Gov. John Kitzhaber. Since then, Oregon Healthiest State has hired staff, signed on additional partners and sponsors, and begun to fill the Steering Committee, Leadership Council and work-groups that will drive the effort.

Leadership sponsor Cambia Health Foundation announced a leadership challenge grant to jump-start the work and inspire other sponsors, committing to match $2 for every dollar committed for the first $1 million raised in 2015.

“Great changes are happening to improve health across our state and in our communities,” said Mark Ganz, president and CEO of Cambia Health Solutions. “When we commit to doing that work together — as businesses, nonprofits, public agencies and communities — we can do even more. We’re investing in Oregon Healthiest State as a way to expand what works and find new solutions to persistent problems.”

Mark Ganz

Mark Ganz, CEO of Cambia Health Solutions, announces challenge grant

With Cambia’s leadership funding, Oregon Healthiest State is launching its Community Transformation Initiative. Built to address the large portion of health that is influenced by behaviors and surroundings, this initiative aims to significantly improve healthy options in every community—from grocery stores and restaurants, to schools and workplaces, to the built environment.

Beginning next spring, every organization in Oregon will be able to access information and training to make places, programs and policies healthier. In addition, approximately 10 communities that are ready to take on community-wide transformation projects will be selected to receive planning, direct coaching and evaluation support, and two communities will be selected as demonstration communities, which further includes local staff to help plan and run a multi-year program and measure results. Resources and expertise for the Community Transformation Initiative will be provided by Oregon Public Health Institute; by Blue Zones Project, and by Healthways, an evidence-based program that helps communities assess their health needs and create changes; and by other proven programs identified by partners.

Oregon Healthiest State

Healthy Kalamath shares stories during Oregon’s kick-off event

Simultaneously, Oregon Healthiest State is developing statewide initiatives to take on the state’s most pressing issues. Using data, it will identify the indicators that, if improved, would signal a radical improvement in health. Informed by partners, it will then determine where added cross-sector activity could accelerate or scale results. Final indicators will be determined in spring 2015, and allies with experience or potential to impact them will gather to explore what’s working and what’s needed, and to collectively design the focus, strategy and action plans for statewide initiatives.

Oregon Healthiest State work will to benefit all Oregonians with a particular focus on reducing health disparities and inequities and advancing racial justice. Oregon Healthiest State’s goal is that by 2020, Oregonians are healthy, health equity increases and Oregon is the healthiest state.

“We wish Oregon the best in their journey to a healthier way of life,” said Ric Jurgens, board president of the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative. “The Healthiest State Initiative looks forward to more collaboration and an exciting race to the top!”

For more information on Oregon Healthiest State visit www.ORhealthieststate.org

**Special thanks to Oregon Healthiest State for providing article content and pictures.