The Free Press
NEW ULM — A federal grant of $204,275 for a new project to help improve the overall health of residents in Brown County has been awarded to the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.
A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Community Transformation Grants to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, the funding is designed to support areas with fewer than 500,000 people.
Grant money will be used to promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control health care spending in small communities.
Brown County Public Health will be working with organizers of the successful “Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project” to create policies, systems and an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles that will lead to the prevention of chronic disease.
The Heart of New Ulm Project is a 10-year initiative to significantly reduce and eventually eliminate heart attack deaths among New Ulm residents. The project is a collaborative partnership of Allina Health, the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, New Ulm Medical Center and the community of New Ulm.
Analysis of data presented in March 2011 indicated a 24 percent drop in heart attacks in New Ulm during a 15-month period. Electronic Health Record data trends from 2008 to 2011 show New Ulm adults aged 40-79 have, on average, reduced their blood pressure by nearly three points, and their LDL cholesterol level by more than two points. These changes in blood pressure and blood cholesterol show New Ulm making bigger improvements than trends for the nation.
As a testament to the success of the Heart of New Ulm Project, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin visited the city for its New Ulm Area Day of Play event Sept. 29.
The foundation and Brown County Public Health will use the funding over a two-year period to expand several elements of New Ulm’s project countywide. Specifically, the “Heart of Brown County” will promote increasing physical activity levels of county residents by advocating for the New Ulm City Council and the Brown County Commission to adopt a Complete Streets resolution to make streets safe for all users, expand the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking program in the county and expand New Ulm’ SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign.
The SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign highlights making healthier food and beverage choices. Currently, this campaign partners with five convenience stores, two grocery stores and 13 restaurants in New Ulm and will be expanded to additional stores and restaurants throughout Brown County.
The New Ulm project has for several years offered the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking course to help participants quit smoking. With the help of the grant, the Heart of Brown County will train more individuals to teach the Freedom from Smoking program across Brown County.
The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, which tries to eliminate heart disease through clinical research and education, is the only organization in Minnesota awarded one of these recent grants.