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Health Report Finds Nearly One In Five Iowa Households Without Broadband Access

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A new report has found nearly one in five Iowa households do not have access to broadband, a factor in their overall health outcomes.

An annual report on local health has found nearly 1 in 5 Iowa households do not have access to broadband.

The County Health Rankings report uses more than 30 measures such as adult obesity and air quality rates to rank counties on their overall health.

It is produced by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a program run through the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute.

Anne Roubal, a population health analyst with the institute, said this is the first year the report has included access to broadband as a measure in the report's ten-year-history.

She said the goal of the report is to factor in more than health factors in a clinical setting.

"We include clinical care measures, but we also include health factors, which are things like smoking rates, or how accessible your community is for going to a park and being able to work out or having adequate access to healthy foods," Roubal said.

She said access to the internet fits into one of these health factors because it helps people apply for jobs and stay socially connected for their mental health during the pandemic.

"And then also just access basic health care things like telehealth, especially in rural or even frontier areas...across our nation," Roubal said.

But Roubal said Iowa fell short of the report’s top benchmark of having at least 86 percent of households with broadband access.

"So Iowa as a state is only at 81 percent. So that's still 5 percent less than, you know, what we would want them to be at," she said.

The report found the percentage of households with broadband access in Iowa varies from 89 percent in Dallas County to 65 percent in Davis County.

Expanding broadband access was a top priority for Gov. Kim Reynolds this legislative session.

In April, she signed a bill into law that establishes matching grants for companies that expand broadband access into underserved areas.