BAXTER-Crow Wing Energized's mission in part is to make the healthy choice the easy choice, but getting county residents to change their unhealthy behavior is easier said than done.

The intent of the collaborative grassroots movement's sixth annual Health and Wellness Summit on Friday, March 1, was to help residents establish healthier habits.

"We know it's notoriously difficult. Many programs don't work because there isn't that human-centered insight that comes from some of these methods and techniques that get you closer to the end user," said Christine Chastain, the keynote speaker and summit facilitator.

Crow Wing Energized invited the community to the free event in Baxter to participate in work sessions to generate positive behavior changes to impact health and wellness in the county.

Crow Wing Energized is led and funded by Crow Wing County, Essentia Health and the Statewide Health Improvement Program. More than 200 people registered for Friday's event.

"We're going to be breaking out into groups and we're going to try to figure out how we, as 'change agents' in our community, can truly have an overall impact and start to move the needle in some areas," Crow Wing Energized co-chair Kara Griffin told attendees.

Every three years, Crow Wing Energized conducts a survey of adults in Crow Wing County. The second of those surveys was distributed in the fall of 2017, with over 1,000 people responding.

Adults in the county believe they are healthy, but a majority have poor eating and exercise habits, according to the latest Crow Wing County Community Health Survey.

The survey found 65.7 percent of adults were not eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and 64.1 percent were not meeting physical activity recommendations.

"What we realized is we're not moving the needle in certain areas, so our behavior around eating fruits and vegetables, or getting enough physical activity, we're not making significant change," Griffin said at the event at Lakewood Evangelical Free Church.

The latest Crow Wing County Community Health Survey found almost 1 in 4 people use tobacco-tobacco use increased from 17.6 percent in 2014 to 23.3 percent in 2017-and less than half of cigarette smokers are trying to quit, a third fewer than in 2014.

"Those that identified that mental illness or mental health is a concern for them was on an increase and then tobacco use increased significantly by 5 percent between the two surveys, as well as individuals reporting they have attempted to quit tobacco use decreased," Griffin said.

"We have more people using tobacco, and we have less individuals that are attempting to quit."

Crow Wing Energized's priorities for 2019 were based on the survey and include: obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition, reduction of tobacco use, falls prevention, mental fitness and advanced care directives.

According to the latest survey, depression and anxiety are more common than diabetes. In the county, 28.2 percent adults were impacted by mental illness, which was the impetus of last year's Make It OK community campaign to reduce the stigma around mental illness.

Rachel Sprague is a public health nurse with the county who was at the summit and was interested in learning about tobacco use, prevention and cessation.

"I do family home visits," said Sprague, who has attended previous Crow Wing Energized summits. "With the population we deal with, tobacco is pretty common."

Crow Wing Energized's goal groups include healthy choices, mental fitness, workplace wellness and community connections.

"I'm hoping to get new information to kind of help with our clients in the community and other resources that might be available," Sprague said.

Summit participants looked specifically at issues in the county surrounding tobacco use, healthy eating, physical activity and mental fitness by breaking out into "working sessions" at the event, which Chastain facilitated.

Chastain has helped Fortune 500 brands, government agencies and nonprofits align in vision, strategy and implementation. She worked with Crow Wing Energized co-chair Adam Rees when he was at the Mayo Clinic.

"There are certain hallmarks to 'design thinking' ... and one of those is creative problem-solving, another is empathetic insight, so really understanding the people you're designing the program for ... and 'rapid prototyping'-imagining it and making changes on the fly," Chastain said.

"Awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement" are factors in changing behavior, according to Rees, president of Essentia Health-Central.

"The objective is really to think about people ... and what it is that they're doing-not what they're saying, but what they're actually doing-to really get to know what are the drivers ... unmet needs that prevent people from making changes that are obviously in their best interest," Chastain said.

Crow Wing Energized's guiding principles include collaboration with stakeholders such as schools, work sites and health care providers, and prioritizing evidence-based efforts around "greatest community good" that can be achieved through available resources.

"I've seen it work a little bit better because you're learning from individuals within the community-why they do the things they do, why they think the way they do and how that influences their behavior-which gives you a better chance of coming up with a good program for them," Chastain said.