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New Ulm Medical Center

NUMC grants make neighbors healthier

A group of neighborhood friends made use of their new jump ropes in mid-August, thanks to a grant received by Audra Shaneman. Pictured (l-r) are: Grace Shaneman, Emma Nelson, Abby Hietala, Josh Shaneman, and Hannah Nelson.

A group of neighborhood friends made use of their new jump ropes in mid-August, thanks to a grant received by Audra Shaneman. Pictured (l-r) are: Grace Shaneman, Emma Nelson, Abby Hietala, Josh Shaneman, and Hannah Nelson.

Square dancing. Rope jumping. Blood pressure checks.

These are some of many free, health-promoting activities that local residents could have participated in this summer. It’s all thanks to grants provided by Allina Health.

The healthy activities and screenings are part of Allina Health’s innovative Neighborhood Health Connection program. The program awarded a total of $15-750 in neighborhood and organizational grants to applicants from the New Ulm region.

Neighborhoods and organizations had been given the opportunity to apply for the grants by the beginning of June, said Carisa Buegler, director of Community Engagement for New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC), part of Allina Health.

A committee reviewed the applications “and most of the applicants received the funding they requested,” Buegler said. “We had so many unique ideas presented that we felt would improve the health of the community.”

The activities Allina Health and NUMC helped sponsor ranged from health screenings to run/walk events to pedometer challenges and worksite wellness programs. It also sponsored community activities including square and polka dancing and instructor-led fitness classes at neighborhood parks.

More than 2,500 people in the New Ulm area were expected to participate in the various fitness activities and health screenings that started in July and run through the end of September.

A health screening in Winthrop

The city of Winthrop applied for a grant and used it to hold a health screening. Held Aug. 29 at the United Farmers’ Cooperative headquarters in Winthrop, the screening included glucose levels and blood pressure, weight and cholesterol checks. The town’s 1,400 residents were invited to come.

“This grant was a great opportunity for the city,” said Mark Erickson, city administrator and economic development authority director. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t get a chance to see a doctor. If they came to our health screening, they could get free screenings and maybe catch something early.”

Allina Health provided the mobile van and the staff needed to conduct the health screenings.

Making fitness routine

Others who received grants included Martin Luther College in New Ulm. The college is using its $2,500 grant to hold a “New Ulm Area Day of Play” Saturday, Sept. 29. A football-sized field on campus will be set up with different play stations. Families will be invited to come and get physical.

Activities will include jumping rope, jump houses, geocaching, speed skating, disc golf, dancing, a scavenger hunt and obstacle courses. Healthy foods will be available as well.

“Hopefully, the children will have fun and want to make physical activity a part of their every day,” Buegler said.

Many aspiring physical education teachers attend Martin Luther College. “So it’s a perfect match,” Buegler added.

A New Ulm mother, Audra Shaneman, was awarded $150 to buy jump ropes. She wants to organize activities where kids can come and use them to exercise.

The Winthrop Chamber of Commerce was awarded $1,800 to organize a morning wellness walk as part of its Farm City Fun Fest held in early July. The first 75 walkers to register received T-shirts.

A number of groups signed up to create pedometer challenges. Participants in the challenges were given free pedometers to track every step they take. They also were given access to online tools to track their progress and motivate teammates.

Being good neighbors

Allina Health created its Neighborhood Health Connection because research shows that neighbors who do things together are healthier and happier, Buegler said.

“We created Neighborhood Health Connection to support wellness and promote healthy lifestyles one neighborhood at a time,” she said. “It’s all about Allina’s looking to help people along their path to better health.”

Research also shows that people are more likely to stick with their healthy activities if they do them with others, Buegler said.

The Neighborhood Health Connection program has been funded for one year. “This is its first year and we don’t know if we’re going to do it again,” Buegler said. “But it was so successful, if we have funding and the resources, we would like to make it an annual program.”

To find out more about the Neighborhood Health Connection, go to