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Thursday, May 12, 2011

National Study Underscores Importance of Minnesota's Health Initiatives

Public News Service-MN
May 12, 2011, from Public News Service-MN

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Children in Minnesota and nationwide have too much access to screen time, sugary beverages and junk food, according to a national report. A Minnesota program already is doing what the report suggests to combat the problem - but its funding is set to expire.

The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests providing better support to communities, child-care facilities and schools to ensure that youngsters have access to healthy foods and exercise.

Minnesota has a head start in this effort thanks to the Statewide Health Improvement Plan (SHIP), a bipartisan initiative launched in 2008. Stephanie Heim, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Minnesota Dietetic Association, says SHIP is a community-based program that helps make the healthy choice the easy choice.

"We know that it's the individual's responsibility to make healthy choices, but we also know that the environment in which they live really impacts the choices they are able to make. So, for example, kids may know it's important to eat fresh fruits and vegetables - but if their school isn't offering fresh fruits and vegetables, then how are they going to get those throughout the day?"

Promoting community gardens, Farm to School initiatives and safe walking paths to school are some of the many ways SHIP helps communities create healthier environments, Heim says. However, despite being an innovative health program that has captured national attention, SHIP's funding is scheduled to expire June 30.

Heim says SHIP also is addressing adult health through initiatives in the workplace.

"We're making it easier for adults in their workplace to make healthier choices through work-site initiatives, or CSA boxes being dropped off at the workplace so employees can get fresh fruits and vegetables to take home to their families."

By 2015, Heim says, SHIP could move an additional 10 percent of Minnesota adults into a normal weight range and help 6 percent of the adult population kick the smoking habit, which would save the state an estimated $1.9 billion in health-care costs.

The CDC report is online at More information on SHIP is at

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