Local wellness efforts receive boost from state grant

NEW ULM – Brown-Nicollet and Le Sueur-Waseca Community Health Boards received a $100,000 eight-month planning grant from the Minnesota Department of Health, as part of statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) funding to counties and cities.

The grant will allow for hiring of staff and to begin assessing the needs of the community.

“We are thrilled to continue our work we started four years ago. SHIP has meant a lot to our community, and we know we have only just begun,” said Karen Moritz, Director of Brown County Public Health. “We look forward to working with our community partners and the residents of Brown County to make our communities healthier places to live, work, and play.”

Launched in 2008 as part of Minnesota’s Vision for a Better State of Health, SHIP aims to tackle the top three preventable causes of illness in the United States: tobacco use and exposure, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. SHIP encourages healthy eating, active living and avoiding tobacco use and exposure by working with schools, communities, workplaces, and healthcare to make healthy choices easier.

When SHIP began four years ago, it was statewide with $47 million over two years; however, in 2012 and 2013 SHIP received a 70 percent cut and included only about half the state. The 2013 legislature supported SHIP with $35 million for fiscal year 2014 and 2015, and now SHIP funding will be available statewide once again.

SHIP strategies include:

* Working with schools to encourage “Safe Routes to School” that promotes more biking and walking, so that children arrive focused and ready to learn, and “Farm to School” programs, so that children consume fresh Minnesota produce and learn where their food comes from, all while benefiting local farmers.

* Supporting employers in offering comprehensive workplace wellness programs.

* Working with communities to encourage biking and walking, including “Complete Streets” with sidewalks and crosswalks, all designed to make it easier for people of all ages to get the physical activity they need.

* Better access to healthy fruits and vegetables in corner and convenience stores and through more farmers markets.

* Healthier eating and more physical activity in childcare through successful, proven childhood programs.

* Helping apartment building owners to voluntarily adopt smoke-free policies.

* Working with health care providers to offer the services and referrals their patients need to eat healthier, increase physical activity, quit smoking, and encourage breastfeeding.

To learn more about SHIP, please visit www.health.state.mn.us/ship.

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