Minnesota spent $1.9 billion to help make its citizens live healthier lives. Now, the Minnesota legislative bodies have an eye on ditching the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).
Begun in 2009, SHIP funneled funds to 870 employers who launched worksite wellness programs that reached 138,000 people; it also funded 544 child-care sites around the state that were educated to offer healthier foods to 8,500 kids; 24 farm markets opened with the financial help of SHIP; 255 cities used money from the program to encourage walking and biking; 369 apartment buildings in the state launched smoke-free environments; and 73 clinics and hospitals encouraged breastfeeding for new moms.
In short, the program spent a ton of money in an attempt to offer an ounce of cure for a fraction of the state’s population. Projects like SHIP need to be shelved.
Why? In spite of the supposed surpluses being touted by the state, the next biennial budget is projecting a shortfall.
In fact, Minnesota’s Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter told Minnesota Public Radio that his office’s latest forecast projects a $1.1 billion deficit by fiscal year 2014.
If SHIP continues to be funded while the state’s schools and cities are being denied important state funds in the face of a billion dollar-plus deficit, our priorities are a bit misplaced.
If SHIP funding is cut or dries up, it should be recommended that people adopt their own health and wellness programs. One option most Minnesotans might wish to engage in (at minimal cost) is walking around their own neighborhoods and meet the folks on their block. Another option available to everyone is getting up off the couch and riding a bike on the beautiful Paul Bunyan Trail. Another healthy consideration is to take a kid fishing and eat the healthy catch with the family.
Adopting such healthy habits won’t cost the state of Minnesota a dime. It will allow legislators to funnel those SHIP funds back to the state’s school districts and municipalities.