State wide health improvement program to kick off in July

Published 10:58 am Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) was an idea whose time had come when it was implemented a year ago.

SHIP was developed in response to the 2007 Minnesota Legislature’s request to develop a plan for statewide health promotion to address the rising cost of health and healthcare in Minnesota.

SHIP, which is an expanded version of the Steps to a HealthierMN model, was intended to help Minnesotans live longer, better, healthier lives by reducing the burden of chronic disease.

Email newsletter signup

Margene Gunderson, Mower County’s community health services director, updated the county commissioners Tuesday on SHIP.

She said more attention is now being paid on access to health services than prevention.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, after being presented to numerous legislative committees and the Governor’s Health Care Transformation Task Force in fall 2007, SHIP was written into the legislative bill calling for overall health care reform in Minnesota.

SHIP implementation will begin in July 2009, after a competitive process, when grants will be distributed to community health boards and tribal governments across Minnesota.

Grantees will be required to create community action plans, assemble community leadership teams and establish partnerships.

To improve the health of Minnesotans, grantees will utilize policy, systems and environmental changes in four settings: Schools, work sites, health care and community, the MDH forecast.

SHIP efforts will focus on obesity (through physical inactivity and unhealthy eating) and tobacco as the key risk factors to target interventions in fiscal years 2010-2011. With those risk factors, the MDH will be addressing the top three preventable causes of illness and death in the United States.

Does that sound too good to be true?

Not exactly, but the funding to accomplish the goals is disappearing.

Gunderson said one of SHIP’s strengths was the use of “evidence-based research.”

A southeast Minnesota consortium of counties is in place to implement SHIP programs and practices, according to Gunderson, but one thing may be lacking: Funding has been slashed nearly in half.

The commissioners listened to Gunderson’s update.

Their only questions concerned what kind of contribution the county will have to make: Gunderson said the in-kind contribution would be “soft” and not impact the county’s own dire financial situation.

The community health services director promised to keep the commissioners update on SHIP as the July implementation date draws nearer.

In other action Tuesday, the county commissioners approved Gunderson’s recommendation to apply for a $120,000 Family Planning Program grant. The grant provides funding for the popular Open Door Clinic for men and women. All four county commissioners voted for it. Also Tuesday, the commissioners accepted Gunderson’s recommendation for appointments to the community health services advisory committee. The appointments were Jerry Reshetar, Sarah Schaefer and Miquel Garate.