Public health gets grant to fight diseases, lower costsIn a joint effort with four other counties, Douglas County Public Health applied for, and received, a grant to help fight chronic disease.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
In a joint effort with four other counties, Douglas County Public Health applied for, and received, a grant to help fight chronic disease.
The $770,000 grant was awarded to Douglas County Public Health, which partnered with Mid-State Community Health Board that also includes the counties of Grant, Stevens, Traverse and Pope.
There were financial incentives if counties joined together to apply for the grant money, said Douglas County Public Health Director Sandy Tubbs.
In a nation-leading effort to reduce chronic disease, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) awarded 39 grants to communities in the state. In total, the state will appropriate $47 million for the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to 86 counties and eight tribal governments over the next two years through grants and technical assistance.
The goal of SHIP is to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier, better lives by preventing risk factors that lead to chronic disease and increased health care costs.
Tubbs noted that SHIP is an essential part of the health care reform initiative that was passed during the 2008 legislative session.
The program, according to MDH, addresses the top three preventable causes of illness and death – tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor nutrition – in the U.S. by:
•Reducing the percentage of Minnesotans who use or are exposed to tobacco.
•Reducing the percentage of Minnesotans who are obese or overweight through better nutrition and increased physical activity.
In Minnesota, 38 percent of adults are classified as overweight and 25 percent of adults are classified as obese, based on body mass index.
Additionally, 18 percent of adults are current smokers.
Tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor nutrition have been estimated to cause 35 percent of all annual deaths in the United States or about 800,000 deaths each year, according to statistics provided by MDH.
These factors also drive up health care costs. SHIP is projected to save an estimated $1.9 billion in Minnesota by the year 2015.
The first phase of SHIP, which goes through the end of December, will focus on planning and assessments, noted Tubbs.
“This means figuring out what’s currently happening in the community, what opportunities exist in our communities and what are the proven strategies and the evidence-based practices that we need to use to implement this,” she said.
She added that this effort isn’t about “the biggest loser contest,” it is about making policy and environmental changes to make it easier for people to be healthy and to make healthier choices in their daily lives.
“We have to look at how we can redesign our lives to incorporate healthier decisions,” she stressed.
According to MDH, SHIP grants are awarded to community health boards and tribal governments that work in their communities to employ evidence-based strategies to make policy, systems and environmental changes in four different settings – schools, communities, worksites and health care systems.
Tubbs explained that a community leadership team will be put in place for the planning and assessment process, and that the team will be instrumental in determining how to best use the grant money.
Implementation of the SHIP interventions selected by the community leadership team is expected to begin in January 2010.
According to information from the Minnesota Department of Health, here are some examples of changes that might occur in each of the four settings.
•School – implement a post-secondary school policy of not accepting any funding, curricula, sponsorships or other materials from any tobacco companies or their front groups for technical schools, community colleges, colleges and universities.
Schools will also try to increase opportunities for non-motorized transportation (walking and biking to and from school) and improve access to school recreation facilities.
•Worksites – support increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods through food service, catering options, healthy vending and access to community supported agriculture.
Businesses will also implement a comprehensive employees wellness initiative, a tobacco-free campus policy, offer access to smoking cessation services, and encourage walking or biking to work.
•Communities – increase availability of nutritious foods through staple food ordinances, healthy corner store initiatives and affordable transportation options to grocery stores selling nutritious foods.
Other goals are to increase the number of farmers markers available and implement tobacco-free policies for parks, playgrounds, beaches, zoos, fairs and other recreational settings.
•Health care settings – implement tobacco-free grounds policies for hospitals and other health care facilities.
Another goal is to build partnerships that will refer patients to local resources that will increase access to high-quality nutritious foods and provide opportunities for physical activity and cessation of tobacco use.