Coalition looks to shape up HC

Hamilton County residents have the distinction of ranking in the lower third on the healthiest Iowa counties list. That’s a drop from the upper third in 2010 to 66th in 2013, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin.

Now, a new coalition of concerned local people is banding together to try to reverse that trend. The goal: Create awareness of the need to upgrade the county’s overall health and to bring other interested groups and individuals into the coalition.

Van Diest Medical will host a kickoff event Feb. 4 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in its Meditation Room. Attendees are asked to use the hospital’s west door.

Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health director, is one of those spearheading the effort. Kroona worked in Woodbury County, which now ranks as Iowa’s healthiest, where she helped organize and run a Healthy Siouxland Coalition. She hopes to emulate it in Hamilton County.

“The fact is Hamilton is heavier, less active, more likely to smoke and more likely to drink than a majority of other counties in Iowa,” Kroona said.

Kathy Getting, executive director of Power Up YOUth, and Janet Toering, All Cultures Equal director, have helped Kroona pull together an initial task force. Together, they are forming the Healthy Hamilton County Coalition. The task force includes leaders of Community and Family Resources and has Van Diest Medical Center support.

Coaches, school principals, clergy, and representatives of the Iowa State University Extension Service, as well as members of local civic and service clubs, chambers of commerce, garden clubs, food pantries are asked to attend the kickoff. Heath care professionals, city councils, county supervisors, recreation and conservation specialists, as well as business leaders, are also invited.

But anyone interested in helping improve the county’s health is also encouraged to attend. The meeting’s goal is to identify and prioritize the county’s top health concern.

Loween Getter, a local actor, will present “Turning to One Another,” a poem by Margaret Wheatley, to start a focused conversation about how to move forward in improving the overall health of the people in Hamilton County.

For more information, contact Kroona at 832-9565 or