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Health briefs: Blood in short supply; snow blower safety tips

Wear ear plugs or other hearing protection when operating a snowblower.

The American Red Cross has issued an emergency call for blood and platelet donors after about 37,000 fewer donations were given in November and December than expected. Hectic holiday schedules and severe winter weather contributed to the shortage, according to a news release.

"Blood and platelet donations are critically needed in the coming days so that patients can continue to receive the lifesaving treatments they are counting on," said Sue Thesenga, communications manager of the local Red Cross Blood Services Region. "We encourage donors to invite a family member or friend to donate with them to help meet patient needs. Right now, blood and platelet donations are being distributed to hospitals faster than they are coming in."

Upcoming local blood donation opportunities:

•Jan. 12 — noon to 6 p.m., Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Welch, 24036 County 7 Blvd.

•Jan. 18 — 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing.

•Jan. 18 — 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Cannon Falls Government Center, 918 River Road.

To schedule an appointment to donate, visit or call 800-RED CROSS.

Snowblower safety tips

With winter now in full swing, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute is offering tips for safe and correct use of snowblowers. "Your indispensable winter friend the snow blower is ready to be powered up, and it's important to keep safety in mind," OPEI President and CEO Kris Kiser said in a news release.

The international trade group recommends taking the following steps when operating a snowblower:

•Review equipment manuals and know how to shut off equipment quickly if necessary.

•Dress appropriately with safety glasses and shoes that can handle slippery surfaces.

•Be sure the area is clear of objects that can be concealed by snow.

•Never use hands to unclog snow or debris.

•Aim the snowblower away from people or cars and keep children and pets away from equipment when operating.

•Use extreme caution on slopes and hills.

•If a snow blower is electric, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.

More safety tips are available at

SHIP training, coaching helps care providers give children a healthy start

Family and small, independent child care providers were more likely to offer vegetables, increase kids' physical activity and support infant breast-feeding after receiving trainings and coaching from Minnesota's Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, according to the state health department.

SHIP grantees covering all 87 Minnesota counties provided training, coaching and follow-up with 768 child care providers between 2013 and 2015. An evaluation study of this initiative focused on its impact among family and small, independent child care providers, which more commonly serve lower income and rural families. Smaller child care providers also often lack access to such training.

The study found that child care providers who received this locally-based training and support through SHIP were significantly more likely to adopt policies and practices that help protect against childhood obesity.

"Minnesota was among only four states to see obesity rates fall between 2014 and 2015. The SHIP program was a big part of this success by increasing access to healthy foods and exercise," Lt. Governor Tina Smith said. "I thank the Department of Health and Minnesota child care providers for their ongoing efforts to give our children a healthy start and combat childhood obesity."

Being overweight puts children at risk of physical and psychosocial health problems such as type 2 diabetes, asthma and depression, and increases their chance of becoming overweight or obese as adults. Obese children who become obese adults face more severe health consequences and incur roughly $19,000 more in direct medical costs over the course of their lifetime compared to children who remain normal weight into adulthood.