Health initiative to end locally

Published 9:40 am Monday, December 12, 2011

State and local officials announced last week Freeborn County will not receive funding in 2012 through the Statewide Health Improvement Program.

The Minnesota Department of Health awarded 18 grants — covering 51 counties, four cities and one tribal government — to receive funding totaling about $11.3 million.

The Goodhue region — made up of Freeborn County and nine other southeastern Minnesota counties — was not awarded.

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“I think it just geographically and financially wasn’t in our favor,” said Ellen Kehr, Freeborn County SHIP coordinator. “We were all very disappointed, but the funding was cut back so dramatically there was just not enough to cover all of the counties in the state.”

SHIP, first signed into law in 2008, seeks to reduce heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases related to insufficient physical activity, poor nutrition and commercial tobacco use.

Since July 2009, Freeborn County has received a total of $260,000 through the SHIP program, of which $160,000 has gone toward grants, $80,000 toward salaries and $20,000 toward marketing materials.

SHIP money has gone toward everything ranging from disc golf courses, to bike lanes to trail signage. It has also supported healthy eating in the county’s school districts, worksite wellness and even school gardens — much through local partnerships with organizations such as the National Vitality Center and Pioneering Healthier Communities.

Kehr said she and others will continue to find ways to build on the projects that have already been completed. She hopes that at some time SHIP funding will again be available to everyone in the state.

“I believe we can still move forward,” she said. “We’re all about action in Albert Lea. The question is whether we will move forward as quickly as we have been.”

Kehr’s SHIP position will end at the close of the year.


What has SHIP money gone toward in Freeborn County?

• Disc golf courses at Riverland Community College and at North Park in Alden.

• Signage and bike racks along the Blazing Star Trail.

• Part of the installation of bike lanes on Front Street.

• Kiosks on the walking paths around Fountain Lake.

• “Share the Road” signage to be installed around Fountain Lake.

• Healthy snack carts in Albert Lea schools.

• Steamers for Alden-Conger and Glenville-Emmons schools.

• Food service training for all food service personnel in public schools in Freeborn County.

• Worksite wellness support for companies working to become tobacco-free.

• Refrigerators and healthy foods for Freeborn County employees.

• A program at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea that addresses how to keep people with chronic conditions out of hospitals and in their homes.

• Evaluations for a spinning program offered at the Albert Lea Family Y to any middle school student in need of extra physical activity.

• School garden at Halverson Elementary School.

• Marketing, brochures and other resources.

• Development of