St. Louis Park examines meaning of ‘health’ and how to improve it

  • Article by: ELIZABETH HUSTAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 19, 2014 - 9:52 PM

As part of $1 million Blue Cross project, city will seek residents’ input on how best to enhance well-being.

St. Louis Park wants to know what health means to its residents and how nearly $150,000 in funding from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota can help define this term through implementing health initiatives throughout the city.

The city earned the funding late in 2013 and is now inviting its residents to a meeting Thursday, asking them what they would like to see in their schools, parks and neighborhoods that would bring greater health and well-being to the city.

Thursday’s meeting is the first of two conversations which are the denouement of smaller-scale focus groups. The focus groups were central to phase one of the project, which aimed to engage the city’s residents in thinking about what improved health in the city could mean.

“[It’s about] body, mind and spirit; what does it mean, and how can we be healthier,” said Bridget Gothberg, organizational development coordinator for St. Louis Park.

The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is investing more than $1 million in nine projects throughout the state that look to engage local residents in promoting healthy living, according to a statement on the company’s website.

Stacy Housman of Blue Cross and Blue Shield said the funding comes from reserves Minnesota won in the tobacco settlement in the late 1990s, reinvested over the past few years into projects to promote healthier living.

The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota strives to eliminate the main causes of preventable disease, especially tobacco use, and advocates healthier eating and a more active lifestyle.

St. Louis Park was the only suburb — and one of two cities — selected to receive funding. Minneapolis, the other chosen city, is using its cut to initiate planning for a greenway through north Minneapolis. The other seven recipients are local organizations focused on healthy living and active forms of transportation, such as Get Fit Itasca and Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in Grand Marais.

Partners with St. Louis Park on this project include St. Louis Park Public Schools, Park Nicollet Foundation and Children First, among other local organizations and businesses.

St. Louis Park’s dearth of co-ops and limited number of edible gardens were among things residents have already brought up and recommended as things to change, Gothberg said. Other areas for improvement included nutritional quality of foods served in schools and nursing homes, she said.

Phase two of the Health in the Park initiative, which is scheduled to run from this July through June 2016, will carry out changes prioritized by residents at the citywide discussions as well as continue developing ideas for healthier living. The funding amount for phase two has yet to be decided, the city said.

Thursday’s meeting will be at the Marriot West Hotel, 9960 Wayzata Blvd., at 6:30 p.m., with check-in at 6 p.m. The second meeting will be March 2 at the Central Community Center, 6300 Walker St., at 1:30 p.m., with check-in at 1 p.m.

Elizabeth Hustad is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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