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Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Program files three-year progress brief

Minnesota’s nationally recognized Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) made significant progress during its third year.

The progress brief comes at a time when healthy community efforts geared toward reducing obesity rates and health care costs continue to gain momentum in Minnesota.

“Communities across the state are recognizing the need to take a community-wide approach to combating obesity and tobacco use — two of the biggest factors pushing up health care costs,” Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger said. “Healthy living isn’t just an issue for the health department or local clinics, it is an issue that all parts of the community need to address.”

On Feb. 28, SHIP released its third-year progress report. The report found that, though SHIP entered its third year a much smaller program than intended because of budget cuts, it made significant progress toward its goals by partnering with hundreds of schools, clinics and workplaces across Minnesota.

SHIP offers grants to local public health agencies and tribal governments to pursue those health improvement strategies most needed in their area. The Cass, Morrison, Todd and Wadena public health agencies partnered to receive a SHIP grant that is funded through June 30, 2013.

Under the new name, Health4Life, staff are working to promote healthy eating, active living and reduce tobacco use in area schools, communities and health-care sites.

SHIP funding helped Todd and Wadena public health implement a Senior Fruit & Vegetable Program. They used the existing Meals on Wheels structure to bring fruits and vegetables to homebound seniors.

Additionally, SHIP funding has helped area school districts including Little Falls, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Wadena-Deer Creek incorporate new physical activity programming into the school day.

Recent data show Minnesota now spends almost $7,000 per capita each year on health care. SHIP focuses on root causes of poor health, such as a lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, and tobacco use, the leading drivers of rising health care costs in Minnesota. Minnesota spends $2.9 billion in annual medical costs (2007) as a result of tobacco use, and $2.8 billion in annual medical costs as a result of obesity (2006).

Through broad public-private partnerships and with sustained SHIP funding, SHIP’s current goal is to increase Minnesota’s proportion of healthy weight adults by 9 percent (from 38 percent to 47 percent), and to reduce young adult tobacco use by 9 percent (from 27.8 to 18.6 percent) by 2020. SHIP employs science-based strategies that focus on creating sustainable, systemic changes in communities.

A 2012 report from the Trust for America’s Health indicated Minnesota could achieve $4.189 billion in health care cost savings by 2020 if the average Minnesotan’s Body Mass Index (BMI) decreased by 5 percent (cumulative).

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
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