According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all Americans live with a preventable chronic disease, and many such diseases are related to obesity, poor nutrition, and physical exercise. A recent study found Minnesotans could save more than $4 billion during the next ten years, if our average Body Mass Index decreased by five percent. And right now, unhealthy lifestyles come with a price -- costing Minnesotans nearly $6 billion in yearly medical costs.
Continuing the effort to improve the health of Minnesotans, and reduce health care costs through low-cost, preventive measures, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has awarded more than $21.2 million in Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grants to counties and cities across Minnesota. The grants will be used by communities -- in partnership with local businesses, schools, and local governments -- to implement projects and programs that will promote exercise and physical activity, improve nutrition, and decrease tobacco use. "The Statewide Health Improvement Program helps win the fight against both chronic diseases and rising health care costs," said Governor Mark Dayton. "By supporting preventive health measures and encouraging Minnesotans to make healthy choices, our state can realize significant health care savings and help people of all ages live healthier, more fulfilling lives."
The new grant awards announced this week come after Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature restored funding for the SHIP initiative during the 2013 Legislative Session. Funding for the program had been cut by nearly 70 percent, forcing the Health Department to offer the grants in only about half of the state. But the new state budget signed into law this spring increased SHIP funding by $20 million, restoring the opportunity for communities statewide to participate in the program. This additional funding allowed 25 more counties to receive SHIP funding.
The Statewide Health Improvement Program awards grants to communities for projects and initiatives that promote good nutrition and exercise habits, and decrease tobacco use. Partnering with businesses and schools, local governments can choose from a number of Statewide Health Improvement Program strategies that include workplace wellness initiatives, better access to healthy fruits and vegetables, support for smoke-free policies, and many other proven strategies.
By creating better health outcomes and supporting preventive health care, the Statewide Health Improvement Program improves public health and reduces health care costs for all Minnesotans. With the help of the Statewide Health Improvement Program grants, communities across the state can expect more support as they work to build a better, healthier Minnesota.