AMES, Iowa -- Iowa is launching a statewide public-private health campaign that aims to reduce obesity and the prevalence of diabetes among Iowa kids as well as educate adults about the link between diabetes and heart-related problems.

The new initiative called "5210 - Healthy Choices Count" is part of a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program that focuses on the importance of four simple daily health habits. Those are five or more servings of fruits and vegetables; two hours or less of screen time (television, computer, video games, phones, etc.); one hour or more of physical activity; and zero or reduced sugar-sweetened beverages.

"Research has shown that children who have healthy eating habits, are physically active and spend less time in front of a screen do better in school," said Gov. Kim Reynolds, who signed a proclamation and used her weekly news conference to highlight the issue. "Their reading scores improve, they are able to maintain better focus in class and they sleep better. Children who do better in school are more likely to pursue post-secondary education and are better equipped to contribute to Iowa's economic success."

The statewide 5210 campaign will include toolkits, social media, advertising, website content and community commitments over the next two months, state officials said. The Iowa Department of Public Health is working directly with participants in Malvern, Dubuque, Mount Pleasant and West Union to implement community-wide 5210 strategies. Each community will receive $18,000 to improve access to a healthy environment.

"This is the first statewide effort to provide consistent messaging and programming regarding the subject of childhood obesity," said state health agency director Gerd Clabaugh. "If families are exposed to consistent messaging in many places, they are more likely to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors in their daily lives."

Dr. Mary Figaro of Bettendorf, who attended Tuesday's campaign kickoff, said America faces an "onslaught of diabetes" with 29 million cases of type 2 diabetes reported nationally with 170,000 in Iowa. "This disease is increasing so that 3.5 percent of Iowans had diabetes in 1991," she said, "and now over 7 percent have type 2 diabetes" with a high percentage linked to cardio-vascular disease.

Clabaugh said the campaign is aimed at impacting young people early given that many adults generally are already set in their eating habits, while Reynolds conceded she handed out small bags of candy to her nine grandchildren as a Halloween treat.

"It is all about balance," Reynolds told reporters.

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