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Area counties receive health improvement grants

Several area counties are among the recipients of more than $21.2 million in Statewide Health Improvement Program grants from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The grants will be used by communities in partnership with local businesses, schools and local governments to implement projects and programs that promote physical activity, improve nutrition and decrease tobacco use.

Funding for the SHIP initiative was previously cut by nearly 70 percent, then restored during the 2013 legislative session. The new state budget signed into law this spring also increased SHIP funding to $20 million, allowing 25 more counties to receive grants.

Seventeen planning grants have been awarded to 31 counties to help them hire staff and begin assessing community needs. The recipients include the public health consortium of Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties, and Kandiyohi and Renville County Public Health.

Each planning grant was for $100,000.

Forty additional counties and cities are receiving 24-month implementation grants to continue the work they have already started. They include Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Public Health, which was awarded $480,216.

The Statewide Health Improvement Program supports preventive health measures aimed at improving health outcomes and reducing health care costs associated with obesity, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and more.

SHIP uses many different strategies, such as the Farm to School program, which brings fresh Minnesota produce to the school lunchroom. The initiative also encourages projects that promote workplace wellness, increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables at neighborhood markets, and create bike- and pedestrian-friendly communities.