After partnering with Polk County SHIP for the past few years, the Riverview Healthcare Association has been working towards making their facility a healthier environment for patients, visitors and staff.

After partnering with Polk County SHIP for the past few years, the Riverview Healthcare Association has been working towards making their facility a healthier environment for patients, visitors and staff.

April Grunhovd, Manager of Infection Prevention and Employee Health at Riverview said, "With the help from both SHIP and Blue Cross Blue Shield, the facility will be working on policy changes that will focus on three main goals: physical activity , healthier eating and maintaining a tobacco free campus."

"We were grateful to partner with April at Riverview. When you can work with someone local, who is part of your community, to improve lives, it is invaluable. Polk County SHIP is partnering with organizations across the county to improve the lives of our community members," said Kirsten Fagerlund, Polk-Noman-Mahnomen SHIP Coordinator.

Due to a lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits, two out of three Minnesotans are overweight or obese, according to the MDH's website. Exercise and proper nutrition are vital to maintaining proper health and lowering diseases.

SHIP has been working hard for three years to develop a way to bring a healthier lifestyle to communities in Minnesota by offering grants that will go towards establishing changes to the places people work, learn, play and receive health care.

With established Workplace Wellness programs, employers who have been granted funding from SHIP have seen an increase in employee productivity, improved customer service and a reduction in overall healthcare and health claims. SHIP is working to continue establishing permanent initiatives that will make choosing and maintaining a healthier lifestyle easier by funding policy, systems and environmental changes to improve community and workplace health.

After receiving funding from SHIP 1.0, Riverview and Polk Country Public Health have worked together to help campaign strategies that would raise awareness to their employees about workplace wellness.

"Last year was our 'Take the Stairs' campaign," said Grunhovd. "The funding went towards revamping our main stairwell with fresh paint and inspirational signage and wellness training for our employees."

SHIP and Blue Cross Blue Shield assisted the healthy initiatives at Riverview. They will be focusing their attention this year towards making their three goal plan come to life. Riverview currently has a smoke-free policy, and they are in the process of enhancing the policy to be tobacco-free, following best practices that have been identified for workplaces. The facility will be going to tobacco free grounds in the spring of 2014. Currently, their main focus is promoting physical activity and healthier eating.

"Our first project with SHIP 2.0 was developing an indoor walking map," Grunhovd said. "This is available to staff, visitors and patients and allows walkers to track their distance by how many laps equals a mile. We have gotten a lot of good feedback; lots of people are taking advantage of the route and even asking about an outdoor route, since it is nice out."

"We are using a lot of resources and communication plans to promote the use of the physical therapy gym to our staff," said Grunhovd. "By reminding them of shower and locker locations for them to use, we are hoping to enhance the likelihood that they may use the facility before or after work," she added.

While plans to encourage staff to continue staying active, Riverview will start focusing their attention towards keeping healthier snacks and meals readily available.

"We have not rolled out with our plans on healthier food yet but will do so by the end of the year," Grunhovd said. "Our one goal is to increase the average of healthy food in our vending machines to ten percent as well as serving healthy entrees in the cafeteria three days a week."

Riverview is well on their way to establishing permanent policy changes that will encourage their staff, visitors and patients to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

"Polk County SHIP has allowed us to do things we may not have been able to do," Grunhovd said. "Because of funding, knowledge and resourcing we have learned a lot. We want to help our employees achieve a lifetime of good health and we will continue to look for opportunities to increase health awareness," she added.

The Statewide Health Improvement Plan (SHIP), a grant funded initiative through the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), has teamed with Polk County Public Health to work with local partners to reduce the risk of chronic disease by increasing nutrition and active living and decreasing tobacco use. Polk County Public Health partnered with Riverview Healthcare Association to encourage its employees to gain and maintain a healthy lifestyle before, during and after work.