We have always been a pretty health conscious bunch at the Improve Group. Lunch times have a strong presence of fruits, vegetables and grains.  Water is drunk in abundance.  You will see staff members sitting on an exercise ball or walking during lunch. However, since we began our evaluation work for the Minnesota State Heath Improvement Program (SHIP) initiatives, an exciting side effect has occurred.


It began with healthier snacks showing up at our staff and client meetings with more proportions of fruits and low calorie items.  As the person who selects the staff munchies for our break room, I have made it a point to bring back healthier foods when I shop. Our Office Environment Committee purchased new exercise balls for the staff. (Just pumping those up is an exercise in itself). They also had us pilot a “Renew You” day at work with suggested activities to try like stress-reducing yoga movements at our desk, getting up and stretching, or taking a “mind break” by doing a crossword or jigsaw puzzle. About 4 years ago we started a walking group at our workplace called the IG Footnotes.  Recently there has been a re-commitment by some of our staff to take a walking break.  Danielle and Stacy get gold stars in that area. Leah has even held a “walking meeting” with one of our clients.


The influence of SHIP has reached into our home lives as well. When Deb observed tobacco use and tobacco litter at a park near her home she contacted her local Parks & Rec  Board to make a formal complaint, inquire if there have been other complaints, and recommend a review of their no-smoking signage. She said she would not have seen this as an important issue to take on prior to SHIP! Deb also found locally grown beef at her grocery store and purchased that as a result of a higher awareness to look for it. I was getting concerned about evening inactivity in my home.  My sons and I started a nightly Wii Fit session in our living room.  We have also increased activities like bowling and swimming and I convinced my older son that yogurt is a good thing. Liz began using smaller plates during dinner time at her home learning that it encourages people to eat less during dinner time. Leah shared that she is trying to be much more dedicated to exercising regularly. Additionally, she spends more time talking with her kids about why they eat certain foods, instead of just saying “it’s good for us”. Okay… more than one staff member has mentioned missing the candy in the office and an occasional cookie at meetings, but as a whole we feel it is worth it. You can learn more about the work of Minnesota’s State Health Improvement Program by clicking here.