Woodbury County Ranks One of Unhealthiest in Iowa

(WOODBURY COUNTY, IA) The 4 full-time employees of the so-called "blue zone" have moved into their new office at City Hall.

The team will coordinate with volunteers and work with businesses and restaurants to improve the well-being of people in Siouxland.

To move from a demonstrations site to a certified Blue Zones Community the team will need to partner with volunteers and business leaders to help people adopt a healthier lifestyle.

And the blue zones initiative couldn't have come at a better time.

A nationwide report on County-by-county health came out today. The rankings show Woodbury County as one of the unhealthiest in Iowa. Out of 99 counties in the state Sioux County ranked the best in overall health. Woodbury County was 76th.

A number of factors go into these rankings like health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and the physical environment in each county. And many are seeing these numbers as a wake-up call.

No pain no gain - these people are doing what it takes to stay healthy. Audrey Timmerman lost 55 pounds in the last year.

"I will tell anybody and everybody you know if you think you can't do it here I'm a great testament. You can do it," Timmerman Says.

It's a humbling piece of advice from someone who's sticking to her goals. She's a positive example now but she used to be a statistic. 30% of people don't work out in Woodbury County. A number that's slightly higher the national average. But simple changes can help people here thrive.

According to health officials working out just 30 minutes a day can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

"You could break that 30 minutes into three 10-minute sections or two 15-minute sections of exercise. Walking around your office building, walking around the block its moving. Doing something is better than nothing," says Holly Bartsch, a Wellness Specialist at Mercy Medical Center.

53% of restaurants here are fast food joints which could help explain why nearly a third of Woodbury County residents are obese. The solution? Pack your lunch.

"It takes maybe 20 minutes of your day to get healthy fruits and veggies ready," says Bartsch.

Possibly the most startling number of all - Woodbury County ranked last in physical environment. 88% of people drink county water that comes from a facility with at least one health-based violation.

That could lead to illnesses, birth defects, lung and skin irritation, cancer and the list goes on.

"I'm like, wow that's so unbelievable," says Sary Stillie, from Sioux City.

"I can't not believe those numbers. Those are crazy numbers. I didn't realize that we were so low," says Timmerman.

But Chris Liberto, the new organization lead for Blue Zones says the local initiative plans on tackling these numbers head on.

"There's no doubt Sioux City has got tremendous support when it comes to the city staff. You can go to the school system as well. Everyone's on board and I think that's because it's been around for a year, year and a half. I think everyone's focused on that one goal," he says.

A city mission that will hopefully ripple out to the rest of Woodbury County.

Here's a link to the county-by-county comparison: