Targeting better health

MARSHALL – There are a lot of ways to improve a community’s health – everything from encouraging a healthy diet and exercise to helping people quit smoking. The question is, which factors to look at first, Stacy Frost said.

Frost, a member of the My Marshall grassroots group, is one of the many people who will be working toward a healthier Marshall area, as part of a community health initiative kicking off this month.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Frost said of the initiative. The first task organizers are facing is to listen to community representatives through a series of surveys on health needs.

Frost said My Marshall is one of several area businesses and organizations working together to try and improve public health in the Marshall area. The information collected in surveys and community meetings will help shape a plan for making area communities healthier, Frost said.

Frost said the idea for a Marshall area health initiative was inspired by a variety of things. This spring, the My Marshall group was approached by members of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Center For Prevention, about healthy community programs. At the same time, Frost said, events like the drive to build a cancer treatment center in Marshall have put the spotlight on health care needs in the area.

“It didn’t take long to turn a light bulb on for people,” Frost said. “Basically, there was a really positive response,” to the idea of creating a healthier community.

Part of fitting a health initiative to the area’s needs is gathering information from local stakeholders.

An online survey will be launched this week, and a sampling of phone interviews with community representatives will also be conducted later this month. Frost said around 60 Marshall area organizations are being approached to take part in the surveys.

The area health initiative is being made possible with the help of tobacco settlement funds from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Frost said. Having guidance from Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be helpful for the initiative’s organizers.

However, she said that doesn’t mean the results for Marshall will be exactly the same health initiatives in other Minnesota communities.

“This is very much going to be targeted toward the wants and needs of this community,” Frost said.

Frost stressed that the health initiative is a group effort.

“At the end of the day, we’re concerned community members,” she said. My Marshall is working together with groups including Marshall businesses, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, health care providers like Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center and Affiliated Community Medical Centers, and community organizations like the Marshall Area YMCA.

Frost said the Marshall area is fortunate in that it has many active community groups working to make their hometowns a better place.