WORTHINGTON — In 2008, in a bipartisan vote in response to rapidly accelerating and costly chronic diseases, the Minnesota Legislature created the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP). The partnership was tasked with working at the local level throughout the state to create and expand opportunities for Minnesotans to be more physically active, eat healthier foods and live free from commercial tobacco use, the key ingredients to reducing preventable chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.
What makes SHIP unique is how it operates at the community level. In our region, SHIP has worked through a tri-county partnership led by Des Moines Valley Health and Human Services (DVHHS), for Cottonwood and Jackson counties, and Nobles County Community Health Services. These local health agencies have partnered with an array of local organizations ranging from schools to businesses to health clinics to essentially make it easier for local residents to make healthy choices.
For years, SHIP has worked throughout Cottonwood, Jackson and Nobles counties to improve and expand opportunities for good health for the residents living here. Well known projects such as a healthy eating project at JBS in Worthington, which provided increased healthy food choices for employees, and the Safe Routes to School projects in Jackson and Windom are examples of this working partnership. Whether it has been making it easier and safer to walk and bike, increasing access to locally grown, healthy foods or by reducing youth access to tobacco and nicotine products, the program has left a positive mark in our region and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
But SHIP does more than provide funding and assistance in the development of health-based projects; it has become a significant resource in the region to help local organizations secure funding from other sources. In 2021 alone, DVHHS-Nobles County SHIP helped community partners get more than $672,000 in grant funding for important health-related projects in the region.
Some of those 2021 projects include support for Children’s Dental Services to help improve the oral health of children from low-income families throughout the region, funding for Heron Lake-Okabena Schools to purchase a chest freezer and blenders for school nutrition services to use with school garden produce, an ADA-compliant kayak launch for Jackson’s Memorial Park, funding for Adrian Public Schools to develop a Safe Routes to School Plan, support for Friends of the Jackson County Trails Committee to secure bicycle helmets to be given out at community events and funding for farmers markets in Cottonwood and Nobles counties to purchase tokens for senior citizens to use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the local farmers markets.
This effort by SHIP to help local partners secure funding from a variety of sources has no intention of slowing down. Already in 2022, DVHHS-Nobles SHIP assisted the City of Jackson to receive $118,753 for a Safe Routes to School infrastructure grant that will make Thomas Hill Road safer to walk and bike on, the City of Jackson in securing $5,000 to begin developing a bicycle business incentive program that will encourage residents and visitors to walk and bicycle to downtown Jackson, helped Jackson County Parks and Recreation secure $2,876 to fund the purchase of mountain bikes that will be available to youth to use at Belmont County Park, and City of Mountain Lake in securing $5,000 to help seal the Mountain Lake Trail.
There are several other funding efforts underway and there will be more in the coming months.
As anyone who has worked with SHIP can attest to, it functions as a true partnership. Instead of a top-down approach, it works side-by-side with anyone or any organization whose interest is improving the health of our residents. If you have an idea that will help make the healthy choice the easy choice in Cottonwood, Jackson or Nobles counties, we strongly encourage you to contact SHIP and share your ideas.
For more information on CJN-SHIP, reach out to Claire Henning (Nobles County Community Services) at (507) 295-5389 or Luke Ewald (Des Moines Valley Health and Human Services) at (507) 847-6930 or visit
Opinion by Luke Ewald and Claire Henning