Grants geared toward getting in shapeLast summer the Minnesota Department of Health awarded grants to areas throughout Minnesota for the Statewide Health Improvement Program. The northeast region, which includes Lake County, is one of the regions chosen to receive $2 million in funding the next two years.
Last summer the Minnesota Department of Health awarded grants to areas throughout Minnesota for the Statewide Health Improvement Program. The northeast region, which includes Lake County, is one of the regions chosen to receive $2 million in funding the next two years.
The $47 million appropriation for the program, also known as SHIP, will cover 86 counties and eight tribal governments through grants and technical assistance.
Lisa Cavallin, the program coordinator for SHIP in Lake County, said the purpose is to focus on improving people’s health while getting them out of a funk of inactivity. She said she isn’t sure how much money Lake County will eventually get, but it will get some. A community health board decides on how much money each area will get. There will be two funding rounds this year.
Much of the current work focuses on Silver Bay, which has its eyes set on school nutrition and a more active living community.
A school wellness team has already been formed to look at healthy eating options for students as well as exercise.
“Right now, we are in the really rough stages,” said Joe Nicklay, William Kelley High School principal. “We are looking at school-wide policies.”
One idea brought forth was a walk to school day. The play “Pirates of the Carrot Bean,” a production from the University of Minnesota Duluth theater department, will also be staged at William Kelley in April. A health care fair will also be held that night.
Nicklay said he wants any program to focus on sustainability so it can be around for a while after grant funding runs out.
A school nutrition action plan could be developed to help identify the goals and specific action steps that are needed to implement any new projects and policies; for example, distributing a healthy snack list to students.
The goal of the “Active Living Initiative” is to increase physical activity through the promotion of policies, programs and environmental changes that increase opportunities for non-motorized transportation.
Recently there was an assessment in Silver Bay that identified obstacles to walking and biking in the city. “We’re not anti-car,” Cavallin said. “We are pro-transportation choice.”
She said Silver Bay does a good job clearing sidewalks, but the city needs more bike racks. Suggestions include better signage for walking trails and also creating an inter-city walking map. “There are great sidewalks in Silver Bay,” Cavallin said.
Two Harbors will play a bigger role in the coming year. There will be a focus on workplace wellness expected to begin in June. Cavallin will talk to local business about the health of their employees.
Dennis Henkel, the director of Lake County Human Services, said there are plans to look at school nutrition next year at Two Harbors’ schools.
Henkel said the grant process prefers applicants to specify one school in the region that would have the most immediate impact from initiatives and Silver Bay was chosen.
Cavallin said no time or date has been set for the next meeting for the Silver Bay coalition, but she expects it to occur in March. “It’s so important to have community involvement,” she said.