SHIP ramps up its health drive; Program eyes working with other groups to promote community betterment

Published 11:00 am Friday, August 22, 2014

Karissa Studier, the Mower County SHIP coordinator, is working with other local health groups to help improve the wellness in the community. -- Jason Schoonover/

Karissa Studier, the Mower County SHIP coordinator, is working with other local health groups to help improve the wellness in the community. — Jason Schoonover/

One of Mower County’s newest health partners is ramping up its work to promote healthy lifestyles.

After a few years away, the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) returned to Mower County late last year when the county received a Minnesota Department of Health grant.

“The overall goal of SHIP is to reduce chronic disease and improve health care costs for overall Minnesotans,” said SHIP Coordinator Karissa Studier, who was hired by the county last November.

Email newsletter signup

Early on, Studier focused on community outreach to gauge the community wants and needs.

“It’s all about the community and all about what the community wants to do and what we can help with,” Studier said.

In 2013, Health and Human Services completed a Community Health Assessment to identify the top 10 health issues and priorities in the community.

That helped hone SHIP’s focus on reducing chronic diseases, like diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart disease, through trying to correct the three biggest causal behaviors: poor diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use and exposure.

One key goal is to promote environmental and systems changes by working with other groups in the community, which has other health leaders excited.

“Mower County’s just going to benefit from this partnership,” Mower Refreshed Coordinator Sandy Anderson said.

Studier has worked with Vision 2020 and Mower Refreshed on many projects. Anderson said Studier has put a lot of energy forward in being another face for wellness in the community.

“It’s an extremely valuable asset for the county,” Anderson said.

Studier has helped with the Vision 2020 Bike/Walk committee to promote trail use within the city of Austin, and she’s working with the Mower Refreshed Refreshed Dining Challenge, which aims to promote healthy eating at local restaurants.

Studier and the Salvation Army recently completed a survey that found people would like to see more fresh produce at the food fruits and vegetables, along with milk, cheese and eggs. They’re now looking at guidelines for healthy food donations.

She’s also worked at the Mower County Senior Center to help make its garden more access accessible by possibly adding raised garden beds.

With tobacco use, SHIP is contracting with the American Lung Association to survey rental properties about smoke-free policies. Studier also plans to reach out to childcare centers and Mower County employees on worksite wellness.

Studier will also work with the YMCA and some local clinics about bringing the diabetes prevention program to the area for people identified as pre-diabetic. The program pairs people with a lifestyle coach, they’re encouraged to reduce their body weight by 7 percent and increase physical activity to 115 minutes a week, which will drastically reduce the chance of getting diabetes.

Outreach is still an important part of the program, as Anderson and Studier held community conversations in LeRoy and Brownsdale, which they’ll continue in other communities.

“At the two we’ve held, the communities have gotten to gauge what they see are really the health needs of that specific community,” Studier said.

Studier’s also met with the Austin and out-county schools, and some projects are in the works.

She’s also working Vision 2020’s Safe Routes to Schools initiative. They’re planning walk-bike to school event in Austin Oct. 8 in conjunction with International Walk-Bike to School Day.

Studier has also met with several area schools.

“I’m excited about what’s to come,” she said.