Friday, April 27, 2012

Minnesota Investments in Prevention

Minnesota made an unprecedented investment in prevention when it passed major health reform legislation in 2008. This investment is called the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). The goal of SHIP is to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by preventing the leading causes of chronic diseases: tobacco and obesity.  In 2008, SHIP was funded for $47 million over two years. Grants were made to 53 community health boards and 11 tribal governments throughout MN. Grantees were tasked with creating policy, system, and environmental changes in schools, worksites, communities, and health care organizations. Grantees selected interventions to implement from a menu created by the MN Department of Health. A few of these interventions (strategies) were: safe routes to school, school wellness policies, healthier school food menus, tobacco free worksites, and community gardens. The City of Bloomington video about their SHIP program provides a good snapshot of the SHIP strategies.
Funding for SHIP was cut drastically during the 2011 budget stalemate in the legislature. It was cut from $47 million over two years to $15 million over two years. It’s hard to tell whether or not it was cut simply for budgetary reasons or if it was cut because legislatures do not think it is a successful program. Articles published recently in the Star Tribune illustrate this problem. A counter editorial to these articles was also published in the Star Tribune. Due to the decreased funding, fewer communities across MN received funds to implement SHIP and some strategies have been modified.

The ultimate goal of SHIP is to reduce health care costs through having healthier people in Minnesota. Unfortunately, it is hard to show measurable progress toward reaching this goal in such a short time (2 years). Legislators want to be able to book health care cost savings already, but it is almost impossible to do that in two years. SHIP is not about a quick fix to health care. It is about creating sustainable behavior change in people.

Watch this video for more on the importance of prevention of chronic disease.

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