In 2008, the Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) was created as a promotion to address the health concerns and the rising cost of health care in the state. The program was intended to help Minnesotans live longer, better, healthier lives by reducing chronic disease through the implementation of interventions aimed to reduce tobacco exposure and obesity at the community-level. Grants were awarded to community health boards and tribal governments throughout Minnesota to carry out the programming. To date, the Improve Group has had the privilege of conducting evaluations for 17 counties that have received state SHIP funding. Not only is SHIP unique because it focuses on long-term health issues statewide, but the program also focuses on sustainable, population-centered changes that are proven to be effective. SHIP has weaved its way through communities by making changes in schools, worksites, populations, and health care systems in an effort that aims to touch every member  of the community in one or more ways. Through the work that has been done, SHIP has impacted Minnesotans by making it easier for them to incorporate healthy behaviors into their daily lives. For example,  child care and preschool sites are supporting healthy eating and teaching healthy behaviors at a young age; schools and businesses are offering more opportunities to eat healthy and be active; cities are creating opportunities to be active by creating trails, improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, and increasing access to recreation facilities; businesses and post-secondary institutions are passing tobacco-free policies and assisting people with tobacco cessation. The changes that have occurred in communities across the state during the two years of funding have been impressive. The ball has been put in motion moving Minnesota towards lower rates of obesity and tobacco use and, eventually, decreased rates of chronic disease and reductions in health care costs. Despite the early successes, getting to this point will require significant time and resources.  At the Improve Group we feel that SHIP has the ability to play a vital role in the future state of health in Minnesota, but in order to make this a reality ongoing support is needed to continue the work on creating policies and practices, along with making changes in environments that make the healthy choice the easy choice, and the norm. To view reports from our recent SHIP evaluation work in Faribault, Martin and Watonwan Counties, click here.

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