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Perham at forefront of state plans to support healthy choices

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Your opportunity to contribute to the health and well-being of Perham and the surrounding area is Tuesday, May 4.

Creating a healthy, active community will be the focus of the public input meeting at the Perham Area Community Center, from 5-6:30 p.m.

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In a nation-leading effort to reduce chronic disease, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has awarded 39 grants to Minnesota communities to help lower the number of Minnesotans who use tobacco or who are obese or overweight.

Perham, Detroit Lakes, Breckenridge and Dilworth are the four communities in the four-county area that are involved.

The $47 million appropriation for the Statewide Health Improvement Program, also known as SHIP, will cover 86 counties and eight tribal governments over the next two years through grants and technical assistance. SHIP is part of Minnesota's historic health care reform initiative that was signed into law in 2008.

"Minnesota is at the forefront of health care reform," Governor Tim Pawlenty said. "The Statewide Health Improvement Program will improve the health of Minnesotans and also help contain the spiraling costs of health care."

SHIP tackles the top three causes of preventable illness and death in the United States: tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Together these three factors have been estimated to cause 35 percent of all annual deaths in the United States, or 800,000 deaths each year. These factors also drive up health care costs. SHIP interventions are projected to save an estimated $1.9 billion in Minnesota by 2015.

SHIP takes a new approach toward prevention by focusing on creating sustainable, systemic changes that make it easier for individuals to make healthy choices in their daily lives. Some prevention programs focus on individual behavior change, which can be difficult to sustain past the life of the program or the individual's involvement in the program.

Community health boards and tribal governments applying for the grants chose from a menu of interventions that have been proven effective in reducing tobacco use and exposure and in improving physical activity and nutrition. The interventions focus on four settings - schools, communities, worksites and health care - to make sustainable improvements to the policies, systems and environments that determine how Minnesotans live, learn, work, play and receive care.

Some of the grant recipients are in the planning phase, while others are implementing their changes. SHIP is locally controlled, so grantees can establish the plans that are best suited to their communities.

More information on the SHIP is available online at www.health.state.mn.us/healthreform/ship.

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