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Live Healthy Red Wing looks back on 5 years

Live Healthy Red Wing recreated walking routes and produced maps for many neighborhoods in the community.

Live Healthy Red Wing leaders say that while the five-year funding initiative Active Living For All concludes at the end of December, the organization will continue increasing healthy living opportunities for all Red Wing residents and build upon the positive impact created over the past half-decade.

Active Living For All, which came from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, provided LHRW with resources to engage in community-based efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of local residents.

"Over the past five years, Live Healthy Red Wing branched into other areas that impact overall health and wellness, like improving equity and city policies" said Elaine O'Keefe, Live Healthy Red Wing coordinator. "We combined those efforts with an existing focus on physical activity and nutrition to help move the needle on community health."

Live Healthy Red Wing improved walking infrastructure throughout the community, including the creation of pedestrian and trail signage, neighborhood maps, safer crossings at busy streets, and increased opportunities for more students to walk or bike to school. The work also included a winter maintenance sidewalk policy that prioritizes safe walking routes for school children, the elderly, physically disabled, and low-income individuals.

More recent efforts include providing support to help build a breakfast nook at Red Wing High School and securing a policy change to increase the amount of passing time in the morning to allow high school students to get breakfast. After the nook opened, 212 more students ate breakfast during the 2017-18 school year than they did the year before.

Mental health coalition

In addition to physical changes to improve opportunities to be more active and to eat better, LHRW has helped to create coalitions and implement policies that will improve the overall health of the community.

This year, they worked to create a mental health coalition, which was formed after many important community organizations, such as Mayo Clinic Health System Red Wing, Goodhue County Health and Human Services, The Goodhue County Family Services Collaborative, Every Hand Joined and Red Wing 2040, realized they were all working on mental health plans and strategies and that by coordinating their efforts, they could maximize benefits for the entire community.

LHRW also led recent efforts to get the city to adopt a Health and Equity in All Policies approach when making decisions. This framework ensures that the health of all residents, including the community's Hispanic population, which is experiencing an increase in poor health outcomes, is considered throughout city's decision-making processes.

Live Healthy Red Wing also produced the Red Wing 2017 Report Card: Tracking Progress and Opportunities for a Healthier, Thriving Community. This was a resident-driven document to help guide future policy decisions in the community. Over 800 copies were distributed throughout Red Wing and it was uploaded online.

"Live Healthy Red Wing has been an impressive partner throughout this funding initiative," said Anika Ward, director of the Center for Prevention. "Their inclusive approach to this work will have a far-reaching impact on the health of the community."

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota established the Center for Prevention with proceeds from the successful lawsuit it and the state of Minnesota filed against the tobacco industry. The center's mission is to make healthy choices possible for all Minnesotans by supporting efforts that tackle the leading causes of preventable disease — commercial tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating — to increase health equity, transform communities, and create a healthier state that benefits everyone.

"While the funding from the Center for Prevention concludes at the end of the year, the true strength of Live Healthy Red Wing lies in the residents of Red Wing and our community partners. That collaborative energy will never go away," says Jessica Seide, Live Healthy Red Wing Chair.

Seide says that efforts are underway to raise funds to allow LHRW to continue to operate in the community.