News Release
March 7, 2012
Contact information

Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Program progress report submitted to Legislature

Employers, schools, and clinics partner with MDH to prevent chronic disease

Minnesota's nationally recognized Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) has shown progress towards improving conditions linked to better health by partnering with hundreds of schools, clinics and workplaces across Minnesota, according to a report submitted by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to the Legislature on Tuesday.

"We are impressed by how Minnesota's businesses, schools, and communities have partnered with us and rallied around SHIP's goal of improving health by fostering and encouraging healthy choices for kids and adults alike," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Commissioner of Health. The report reviews the program's first two years that ended June 30, 2011. SHIP was included in Minnesota's bipartisan health care reform legislation passed in 2008 as a strategy for curbing rising health care costs through prevention efforts.

In communities across the state local SHIP efforts have launched new partnerships with businesses, farmers, schools, community groups, chambers of commerce, hospitals, health plans, city planners, county boards, tribal officials and more. These partners have successfully implemented changes in schools, health care systems, workplaces and at the broader community level that help assure the opportunity for better health for more Minnesotans.

More Minnesota employers are creating opportunities for their employees to decrease tobacco use, access healthier foods, and engage in physical activity. During its first two years, SHIP has helped over 870 employers lead worksite wellness initiatives, reaching over 138,000 employees across the state.

Many school children have access to healthier food and opportunities for physical activity. Farm to School efforts are under way to increase access to local produce in at least 367 schools and 22 school districts across Minnesota, serving more than 200,000 students. Over 110 schools, serving more than 77,000 students, are actively engaged in Safe Routes to School efforts that support students walking or biking to school.

More doctors, nurses, and clinics are getting the tools they need to help patients address obesity and tobacco use. Communities are also taking action to prevent tobacco smoke exposure. Six cities have adopted tobacco-free parks policies, and 14 additional cities are currently working on this strategy; 31 post-secondary schools are working to have tobacco-free campuses, and 227 apartment buildings have adopted smoke free policies.

"One of the keys to SHIP's success is local partnerships," said Pat Adams, Director of the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives, where SHIP is housed. "Through the great work being done by local public health, tribal health and their community partners, SHIP is setting the stage for achieving better health for Minnesotans across the state."
SHIP's goal is to improve health and reduce health care costs by reducing the number of Minnesotans exposed to tobacco and the percentage of Minnesotans who are obese or overweight. SHIP employs proven strategies that focus on creating sustainable, systemic changes for better health in communities.

In 2008, Minnesota policy makers recognized that in order to contain spiraling health care costs, investments in prevention were needed. With bipartisan support, Minnesota passed a ground-breaking health reform law that included SHIP. Two-year SHIP grants were awarded on July 1, 2009 to all 53 community health boards and nine of 11 tribal governments. Grants were awarded through a competitive process for statewide investments of $20 million in 2010 and $27 million in 2011.

As SHIP enters its third year, a 70 percent funding cut in 2011 necessitated a shift away from a statewide focus. SHIP now works in 51 rather than 87 Minnesota counties and funds 18 rather than 41 grantees.

"The reality is that programs like SHIP are essential if Minnesota is going to succeed at reigning in health care costs," said Ehlinger. Nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans are overweight or obese, and 15 percent of adults still smoke. As a result, chronic diseases— such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer— account for 70 percent of all deaths and 75 percent of health care spending. Yet only a fraction of health care dollars go toward prevention. In 2009, an average of $6,913 was spent on health care per Minnesotan, but Minnesota spent under $4 per person on SHIP.

"Looking at this report reinforces my belief that the key to curtailing health care costs is to build on SHIP's successes and to engage our partners in community-wide public health and prevention strategies," Ehlinger said.

Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) Progress Brief – Year Two highlights

SHIP is an investment designed to improve health and reduce health care costs. SHIP works to (1) reduce the number of Minnesotans who use or are exposed to tobacco and (2) reduce the percentage of Minnesotans who are obese or overweight through better nutrition and increased physical activity. By reducing these risk factors, SHIP addresses the top three preventable causes of death in the United States.

    • SHIP has helped over 870 employers lead worksite wellness initiatives, reaching over 138,000 employees across the state.
    • Farm to School efforts are under way to increase access to local produce in at least 367 schools and 22 school districts across Minnesota, serving more than 200,000 students.
    • Farmers markets increase access to fruits and vegetables, a key component of healthy eating. During the first two years of SHIP, 160 new farmers markets have opened in Minnesota, an increase of 95 percent.
    • Over 110 schools, serving more than 77,000 students, are actively engaged in Safe Routes to School efforts that increase opportunities and support for youth to walk or bike to school.
    • 31 post-secondary schools are working to have tobacco-free campuses.
    • Approximately 255 cities are working to improve walkability and bikeability in their communities.
    • Over 500 child care sites have worked to improve nutrition, serving over 8500 children.
    • Over 900 child care sites are working on implementing practices to increase physical activity, serving over 20,000 children.
    • To prevent tobacco smoke exposure, six cities have adopted tobacco-free parks policies, and 14 additional cities are currently working on this strategy.
    • 227 apartment buildings have adopted smoke free policies. Another 142 are working toward it.

    To view the report and get more information, including local success stories, visit www.health.state.mn.us/ship.

    -MDH-


For more information, contact:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications
651-201-5806

Pat Adams
Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives
651-201-5809

William Burleson
Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives
651-201-5391