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Make It OK Iowa: The Healthiest State Initiative

The Healthiest State Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization driven by the goal to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation. They work to inspire Iowans and their communities to improve their health and happiness by engaging with worksites, communities, schools, retail food, organizations, institutions, and individuals.

Make It OK got its start in Iowa when HealthPartners Unity Point Health sponsored the Mental Health: Mind Matters exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa in 2019. The exhibit used hands-on activities and immersive multimedia experiences to help visitors explore mental illness and its prevalence. Within the Mind Matters exhibit, there were references to Make It OK that introduced the campaign and encouraged community involvement. “I knew the work couldn’t just start and end there with the Mind Matters exhibit. We had to continue the conversation around stigma and make something statewide to really help reduce the stigma and address the issue broadly,” said Jami Haberl, Executive Director of Iowa Healthiest State Initiative.

The Healthiest State Initiative prioritized mental health and well-being as a top priority, especially after seeing it rise to the top in a 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). Community leaders were brought together to discuss the importance of investing in mental health and recognized that the conversations around stigma and access to mental health services needed to be happening at the same time.

The formal launch of Make It OK in Iowa was tied to the Healthiest State Initiative conference which took place in May of 2019, during Mental Health Awareness Month. Within months of the launch, a steering committee was developed to guide the roll out of the Make It OK campaign in Iowa. In September of 2019, the Healthiest State Initiative held its first Ambassador training. Today, they have trained over 1,012 Make It OK Ambassadors. They also have 334 registered Make It OK workplaces, reaching approximately 232,655 Iowans, with an additional 6,300 Iowans reached through monthly community-facing presentations.

The Healthiest State Initiative describes the campaign as an entry point into the mental health space, highlighting the ease with which it can be shared with others. Jami emphasized the importance of building and maintaining momentum of Make It OK in Iowa communities by saying, “If we can reach the four out of five Iowans that don’t have a mental illness and encourage them to have caring conversations, we win.”

Visit Make It OK Iowa to learn more