The Central Iowa Well Kids Coalition launched this December as a public-private partnership among 30 organizations committed to promoting healthy habits with kids and families. The coalition also launched 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count as a unified message with easy-to-implement ideas that encourage healthy habits in the places where kids live, learn, and play.

United Way of Central Iowa is leading the initiative. President Elisabeth Buck is impressed by the community colloaboration around this important issue affecting our children.

"This is the first time our community has come together around one message that offers an easy and fun way for families to live healthy every day."

"Improving the health of our kids starts by making healthy choices count in our schools, health care clinics, child-serving programs, and neighborhoods. 5-2-1-0 offers small and creative strategies that can make a big impact," she said. 

“Improving the health of our children is a much more complex issue than simply telling Iowa’s families to eat better and exercise more,” said Gerd Clabaugh, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. “The 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count campaign offers an easy-to-remember guideline and encourages everyone to play their part in creating healthy environments for kids. Central Iowa is a model for how we can unite around this one collective effort that long-term can decrease economic costs and strengthen our communities.”

The Coalition’s launch took place December 18 at Carver Community School with remarks from state and local leaders and a tour featuring how the school has added exercise, nutritious foods, and mental breaks into its day.

The community is invited to participate in 5-2-1-0 through a new website:

Visit the 5-2-1-0 DSM Site

The site connects caregivers, community champions, and professionals with tips and resources for helping kids meet the 5-2-1-0 guidelines. The new website also features the Healthiest State Initiative’s resources for sectors including caregivers, educators, child care providers, and health care providers.

Improving child well-being has become a challenging issue as family habits have changed over time.

  • 41.5 percent of Iowa kids watch TV or play video games 1-4 hours per day.
  • Only one-third of American high school kids regularly attend physical education classes.
  • Iowa ranks 47th lowest of the 50 states in the percentage of residents who say they regularly eat fruits and vegetables.

United Way of Central Iowa has led the work to promote 5-2-1-0 in central Iowa in partnership with Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, which is working with 16 schools and child-serving centers, and Blank Children’s Hospital, which is working with 11 health care clinics to implement strategies that promote 5-2-1-0 with kids and families. The central Iowa work is funded by Hy-Vee and The Wellmark Foundation.

To date, 14,397 kids and their families have been touched by
5-2-1-0 efforts in central Iowa.

“By focusing on the health of our students, we are improving their development, increasing their ability to focus in the classroom, raising their reading scores, and ultimately, helping them graduate and succeed for the rest of the their lives," said Teree Caldwell Johnson, chair of the Des Moines Public Schools board. "It’s incredible to see our community unite all of our health initiatives under one shared effort to improve the well-being of our kids." 

5-2-1-0 promotes the following guidelines for families to make healthy choices every day:

  • 5 servings of fruits and vegetables
  • 2 hours or less of screen time
  • 1 hour of exercise
  • 0 sugary drinks and more water

Strategies promoted through 5-2-1-0 include:

  • Changing birthday celebrations from eating sugary treats to having a costume party
  • Adding balance beams to child care centers for kids to exercise while learning numbers and letters
  • Sollecting information about families’ habits and sharing information about 5-2-1-0 in health care clinics
  • Encouraging families to make being healthy fun with easy ideas such as having dance parties and carrying a water bottle around with them.

TAGS: Health

Erin Drinnin

About The Author: Erin Drinnin

Erin Drinnin is United Way's Community Impact Officer for Health.