Healthful efforts celebrated

SHERBURN – Two VIPs were honored Friday during a Statewide Health Improvement Program leadership meeting at the Cup and Saucer Cafe in Sherburn.

Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Health, was on hand to recognize the many achievements seen so far by the SHIP program in Martin, Faribault, Jackson, Cottonwood and Watonwan counties.

“It’s wonderful to hear the stories going around the state regarding the SHIP program,” Ehlinger told the group. “When my grandfather was born, the average lifetime span was only 47 years. Now the average lifetime is about 80 years.”

Lifespans were shorter back then because of infectious diseases. But since vaccinations can control those, the new killer is chronic disease, such as obesity and diabetes.

“For that, SHIP is the vaccination,” Ehlinger said. “… Medical care, while important, is only about 10 percent of being healthy; 90 percent is behaviors. The problem is while I believe our state has the best medical care available, it’s being overwhelmed by these chronic problems.”

One major success of SHIP involves numerous counties and communities working together.

“Everyone is learning from everyone else,” Ehlinger said. “As a community, working in a collaboration is producing better results … It’s gaining national attention. The CDC is watching Minnesota; they’re seeing that we’re doing things that no one else has done, and it’s different.”

People attending the meeting included county commissioners; school and county administrators; and social and human services workers, all with success stories to share.

Local success stories include nutrition and wellness programs at schools in Fairmont, Truman, Blue Earth and Martin County West; an evaluation of Fairmont’s trail system; allowing farmers market vouchers through the WIC programs in Martin and Faribault counties, along with implementing FIT WIC for children in the program; and a program allowing local growers to deliver food to schools in the five counties.

Perhaps none of the success stories stood out as much Kaitlyn Kirchner’s.

The 9-year-old from Madelia was the winner of the White House Kid’s Recipe contest, earning her a trip to Washington, D.C., to have a Kids’ State Dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama as host.

Her winning recipe, “Garden Stir Fry,” was the lunch served Friday to those in attendance. As Kirchner gave a presentation on the contest and her White House experience, she told the group that all the winning recipes were sampled at the White House dinner.

“My favorite was the pizza with a cauliflower crust,” she said. “We were served on the Clinton china. We wondered if that was because the Obamas didn’t want theirs to get broken.”

The end result of Kirchner’s visit with the First Lady was for all the contest winners to be asked to act as ambassadors for healthy eating.

Kirchner’s presentation was given a standing ovation Friday.