The journey to make Marshall County residents healthier continues.
And part of the journey includes taking small steps with the hope that bigger goals can be accomplished.
That was shown Monday, when Carol Hibbs, Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA CEO, announced a Phase I application submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, N.J., had been approved.
The application was submitted by Hibbs in May on behalf of the local Healthier Communities Coalition.
The coalition, which promotes health and wellness, is made up of business, education, government, health, media and wellness representatives and meets several times a year at the Y.
Phase I approval allows the coalition to submit a Phase II application, which, if successful, would earn the coalition a $25,000 award.
Hibbs said six $25,000 awards will given nationally and the coalition may apply the funds to a project of their choosing.
The Phase II application is due Aug. 1. Applicants will be notified of their status by Sept. 30.
"This is great news," Hibbs said of the Phase I approval. "The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is highly respected and one of the premier foundations nationally for health initiatives."
The award's size and "no strings attached" feature means competition will be intense.
Kim Schryver, of Marshalltown, will be assisting Hibbs in preparing the Phase II application.
Schryver is a community volunteer and former dietitian at the Iowa Veterans Home who has served as coalition co-chair with Hibbs for several years.
The duo have invited other members of the coalition to help prepare Phase II.
The HCC was formed in 2005 after several independent studies showed a disproportionate number of youth and adults in Marshall County were suffering from elevated rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The studies that cited the preponderance of diabetes and cardiovascular problems were key among other factors, in convincing the RWJF to approve the Phase I application.
"We have a rank of 69th of 99 Iowa counties according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute County Health Rankings & Roadmaps," Hibbs said.
The adult obesity rate in Marshall County is 32 percent, and county residents have a higher indication of coronary heart disease than the state rate.
Judges from the RWJF, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, the national County Health Roadmaps Advisory Group and other national experts will assess Phase II community applications.
"The judges will be evaluating six application criteria," Hibbs said. "Community collaboration, implementation of strategic plans to improving healthy lifestyles and addressing problems that disproportionately affect minority populations are three of the six."
Since its formation, the HCC has aggressively supported healthful eating and physical activity among county residents.
It launched the Eat Smart, Move More, Live Well! initiative to promote healthy lifestyles in August 2010.
A website - livewellmarshallcounty.com - encourages participation.
Later, an expanded team of business, education, neighborhood and government representatives, under the coalition's direction completed a full, community-wide healthy living assessment and a plan of action to mitigate barriers that prevented individuals from implementing a healthy lifestyle.
The coalition has partnered with Gov. Terry Branstad's Healthiest State Initiative - an ongoing program developed in 2011 - to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation in five years.
At the coalition's behest, hundreds of county residents participated in two "Start Somewhere" activities sponsored by the HSI in 2011 and 2012.