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Friday, July 27, 2012

Dakota County Public Health Department Honored as 'Model Practice' Program

July 20, 2012
 Apple Valley-Rosemount 

The Dakota County Public Health department was honored last week at the 2012 annual conference of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) for developing a “model practice” program in response to a local public health need. The Smart Choices program was one of 39 public health programs selected from 166 applicants across the nation to receive NACCHO’s Model Practice Award.  

Smart Choices was created in 2009 by the Dakota County Public Health department and the nine public school districts in the county to support healthy choices by students and staff by increasing healthy food options and physical activity before, during and after school.   Research shows that improving eating and activity habits improves both children’s health and their academic achievement. Studies also show that healthy habits developed in childhood go a long way toward reducing the risk of developing chronic disease as adults.   

“Recognition of Smart Choices by NACCHO affirms that we are making great strides in improving the health of Dakota County students,” said Bonnie Brueshoff, Dakota County public health director. “We are pleased to have this opportunity to share our work with other local health departments across the country. We thank the schools and other community partners for their efforts to provide healthy food and increased physical activity options for students.”   

An important component of a model practice is evaluating the impact of the activities. Smart Choices teams have conducted comprehensive assessments in the schools, examining the type of food sold in the cafeteria, vending machines and school stores as well as school policies covering fundraising and classroom celebrations.  A few of the key changes since 2009 include:
·         All 70 schools in six districts currently participating in Smart Choices have increased the number of vegetables served daily at lunch, and 26 of them offer salad bars to students.  
·         63 of 70 (90 percent) schools increased the number of fruits available daily.
·         All 37 elementary schools now serve only healthy food that meets federal standards for lunch.  
·         Twenty-six schools in the county have been awarded the Healthier U.S. School Challenge Silver Awards, which are based on Institute of Medicine guidelines and the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Smart Choices is currently funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota through its Prevention Minnesota initiative. The program has also received funding from the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program. Dakota County and the school districts have contributed significant in-kind staff support for Smart Choices.   

More information about Smart Choices is available at, search “Smart Choices”.

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