From 36 to 1

August 1, 2022

Iowa ranks 36 for healthiest state in the nation. Jami Haberl, executive director of Iowa Healthiest State Initiative (IHSI), wants to make Iowa No. 1.


IHSI is non-profit organization working to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by improving Iowans’ physical and emotional well-being. “We’re working across all counties in the state of Iowa to ensure that Iowans can live their best life,” said Jami. The goal is to give every person living here the opportunity to enjoy their families, their workplaces and their communities. How? Through a people-centered approach to three core initiatives:


1. 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count — focusing on healthy eating and physical activity. Lifestyle change is hard for anyone, and it often takes a health crisis or emergency for people to make that change. That’s why it’s important to determine why healthy eating and physical activity are beneficial. For many, it means enjoying their hobbies, doing meaningful work or playing with their grandkids. “It’s about having energy and feeling good when you get up in the morning, and doing something you’re passionate about,” said Jami.

How can Iowa make healthier choices? We need to get creative. Not everybody has access to a fancy gym or fresh produce. But drinking more water, getting enough sleep, eating fruits and vegetables, and getting our steps in is a great start. “Where can you find a balance that is appropriate for your current life?” asked Jami. “And how can you just add or tweak just one more thing?”


2. Double-Up Food Bucks — giving people access to fresh fruits and vegetables. During the pandemic, the number of locations for Double-Up Food Bucks grew from 40 to 140, covering 76 of the 99 counties. Locations include Fareway stores, farmers’ markets, co-ops and more, giving people options depending on their communities.

For Iowans struggling to buy fresh produce on a tight budget, adding more access points where they could stretch their dollar was a huge win for IHSI. “It was very rewarding for our team to know that we were able to help so many Iowans,” said Jami. “In the end, we got more fruits and vegetables into the bellies of Iowans who need it.” This, of course, contributes to a systemic change of people being able to make healthy choices over time.


3. Make It Okay — working to reduce the stigma of mental illness in our state. According to the 2021 Mental Health Outlook Survey conducted by Bank Iowa in collaboration with IHSI, 77% of Iowa farmers polled said they or a loved one have struggled with mental illness, and 42% said they would be reluctant to seek help. “The conversations around mental health and mental illness have always been challenging in our nation,” said Jami.

As mental health is an essential component to overall health, a large part of the Make It Okay initiative is educating the public on what mental illness looks like and how stigma can prevent people from talking about their struggles. IHSI makes sure Iowans know where to go for the resources they need to have those conversations, and who to talk to for support.


Jami Haberl, the IHSI team and community partners are doing everything in their power to make Iowa healthier. “It’s not about Jami and the IHSI team making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation,” said Jami. “We rely so much on all of our partners across the state, too, because we can’t live in all of the 1,000+ communities.”


Like Jami, we believe in helping our clients, our team members and our community, as reflected in our values: Be people centered. Bring your best. Enable great things. Think big. At Bank Iowa, we strive to live out our values every day to support our vision and fulfill our purpose. 

NOTE: Comments have been edited for length and clarity.


About Bank Iowa


With more than $1.8 billion in assets, Bank Iowa ranks as one of the leading independent ag banks and the second-largest family owned bank in the state. Farmers, families and businesses access Bank Iowa’s products and services through 26 locations in 23 communities, as well as online and on mobile devices. To learn more, visit Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender