BizicallyFIT Competition Heats Up in Willmar

The city of Willmar has been a leader in driving BizicallyFIT 2012 Health Challenge participation, amassing 15 local teams with a total of 150 participants. Now, a recent article in the West Central Tribune reports that workplace wellness is becoming second-nature for many Willmar-area businesses as they find ways to fit exercise and healthy eating into their day. While friendly competition between the local teams is keeping motivation strong throughout the 12-week competition, everyone will win better health. Willmar has been an active city in the competition from the outset, and kicked off the competition February 3 with a special event at the Kandiyohi YMCA.

To read the full story, click here.


How much can a workplace wellness program save your organization?

USA TODAY: A recent survey by survey by Principal Financial Group, Medical costs improve by an average of $3.27 and absenteeism costs improve by an average of $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness.

Learn more about how to start or strengthen a workplace wellness program in your company through our BizicallyFIT web portal, available through participating Chambers of Commerce.


BizicallyFIT 2012 Health Challenge Brings Minnesotans Together for Healthy Competition

Have you registered for the BizicallyFIT 2012 Health Challenge yet?

On Monday, Minnesota Vikings starting cornerback Asher Allen, former Biggest Loser contestant Sione Fa, State Senator Carla Nelson and Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce President Ruthe Batulis today kicked off the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s BizicallyFIT 2012 Health Challenge at the Minnesota Vikings’ Winter Park field house with businesses of all sizes, colleges and universities, K-12 educators, non-profits and other community leaders. These teams will earn points for healthy behaviors like exercise, pedometer steps and weight loss, competing with others throughout the state for online rankings, virtual trophies and bragging rights.

Hear remarks from Dakota County Regional Chamber President, State Senator Carla Nelson, watch the full news conference, or checkout the photos on the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s Facebook page!

Learn more about the 2012 Health Challenge.


Documentary: Interviews on Obesity, Health and Wellness

When it comes to information about the current state of health, our documentary Too Much to Lose, A Minnesota Story shares just the tip of the iceberg. Select the hyperlinks below to watch extended interviews with some of the experts we talked to as they delve deeper into the issue of obesity and how we can improve our overall health and wellness. This video was recorded in the process of developing the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s documentary, Too Much to Lose, A Minnesota Story.
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Documentary: Too Much To Lose, A Minnesota Story

The documentary, Too Much to Lose, A Minnesota Story, features a look at the problem of obesity in Minnesota and what‘s being done about it. Footage in the segments below include an in-depth look at the Alliance, and the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which is a nation-leading effort to make the people of Minnesota healthier. Click on the titles of each section below to watch each of the six segments of the documentary. Additional bonus footage recorded in the process of developing this documentary is available. Check out Alliance Roundtable Discussion and In-Depth Interviews on Obesity, Health and Wellness.

Personal Struggles from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Meet Minnesotans who have battled their weight for much of their lives. Find out what it took for them to finally win the battle of the bulge.

Community Cooperation from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

A healthy lifestyle can be contagious, and Minnesota’s communities are spreading the word. From school gardens to fitness centers and health fairs, a good number of Minnesota communities are making big strides on the path to health.

Public Partnership from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

A groundbreaking program is setting Minnesota apart when it comes to health and wellness. Learn how the SHIP program is laying the foundation for healthier communities in every corner of the state.

Wellness at Work from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Healthy employees are effective employees – and that’s good business. The members of the Alliance set an example with innovative programs that help their employees live healthier lives.

The Alliance from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Meet the members of the Alliance, first-hand, in this roundtable discussion that addresses why they’re involved, why it’s important, and how they want to make Minnesota healthy.

The Future from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Find out what the Alliance is doing right now to get this initiative underway and how it’s helping a local charity at the same time.


Documentary: Alliance Roundtable Discussion

The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota brings some of Minnesota’s most engaged and forward-thinking employers together to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Minnesota. Select the links below to watch the full hour-long roundtable discussion with key members of each of the Alliance companies (broken into seven shorter segments) as they talk about why they joined the Alliance, what they hope to accomplish and why we have to act now. This video was recorded in the process of developing the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s documentary, Too Much to Lose, A Minnesota Story.

Participants in this roundtable include:

  1. Calvin Allen, Senior Vice President, HealthPartners
  2. Gen Barron, Senior Wellness Manager, Medtronic
  3. Dr. Tim Crimmins, Chief Medical Officer, General Mills
  4. Dr. Marc Manley, Chief Prevention Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
  5. Cara McNulty, Initiatives Manager, Statewide Health Improvement Program
  6. Dawn Owens, CEO, OptumHealth
  7. Dr. Joshua Riff, Medical Director, Target
  8. Beth Zenisek, Benefits Wellness Specialist, Cargill
  9. Moderated by Rick Kupchella, founder and partner, Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota

Guthrie part 1 from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Guthrie part 2 from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Guthrie part 3 from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Guthrie Part 4 from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Guthrie Part 5 from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Guthrie Part 6 from MN Alliance on Vimeo.

Guthrie Part 7 from MN Alliance on Vimeo.


Rice County Gets Healthy

These days, over 8,000 employees across Rice County are on the move, making better food choices and reducing tobacco use. The secret behind their health kick? Rice County’s Statewide Health Improvement Program worksite project, Healthy Rice County: Achieving Wellness in the Workplace.

Since early 2010, the program has helped more than 20 worksites in Faribault, Northfield and surrounding areas to learn about ways to offer healthier foods and encourage employees to increase activity and reduce tobacco use.

“Interest in the program began when Rice County Public Health sent a press release to media outlets about the new SHIP initiative,” says Natalie Ginter, Rice County SHIP Coordinator. “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota led the recruitment process by mailing invitation letters and making follow-up phone calls to top leaders and human resources staff of more than 80 Rice County organizations.”

Once the interest level of each organization was determined, Blue Cross led education and consulting efforts among the participating organizations, helping each to understand and successfully implement the best practices for worksite wellness.

“In our work guiding employers to create a culture of health, we have provided detail on what it takes to be successful,” says Linda M. Pellowski, Blue Cross workplace wellness consultant. “For example, leadership support is the most critical, and a representative wellness committee can help with sustainability and continuity. The best practices for each component were given as a framework along with mentoring and examples from other success stories as a way to encourage employers to adopt the recommendations as best as they can.”

After learning about best practices, the participating organizations used a vision and goal-setting document provided by Blue Cross to write their organization-specific workplace wellness goals. Blue Cross then provided implementation plans outlining the action steps necessary for each organization to accomplish its specific goals.

“We hear that those turnkey tools help make it easier for the employer to be successful,” Pellowski says. “For example, should an employer set a goal to write a tobacco-free worksite policy, an assessment checklist, a framework for writing an ideal policy and an actual sample employer policy are provided. We see it as important for the organization to receive comprehensive support to allow for the best opportunity for success.”

As organizations worked to implement their worksite wellness plans, the Northfield Area Family YMCA staff was on hand to help organizations adapt best practices to their individual environments and capabilities. To keep the wellness efforts flowing, each organization will continue to receive consulting and mentoring support from Rice County Public Health and its two partners, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and the Northfield Area Family YMCA, through the fiscal year, which continues through June 2011.

One participating organization, The State Bank of Faribault, has seen a rapid culture shift following its wellness initiatives. It offered employees an incentive of reduced health care premiums for taking certain steps to improve their health. And, nearly all employees engaged. The incentive criteria were participation in biometrics screenings (for cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar) and a health assessment, the setting of a personal health goal, and attendance at two talks within a four-part series about healthy living.
With further encouragement, The State Bank of Faribault has also purchased stability balls for its break room and offers access to information on healthy nutrition. This summer, the bank will map a walking route from its location through the neighborhood to encourage more physical activity among employees.

SHIP’s goal is to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by preventing the leading causes of chronic disease: tobacco and obesity. It launched as part of Minnesota’s Vision for a Better State of Health, the bipartisan health reform package enacted in 2008. SHIP makes it easier for Minnesotans to choose healthier behaviors by making changes in the places where we live, learn, work and play.
SHIP’s mantra is a focus on policy, systems and environmental change. That means that organizations participating in SHIP-funded worksite wellness programs have had less emphasis on programmatic approaches and more on sustainable initiatives such as:

• Increasing the amount of healthy foods offered in vending, decreasing portion sizes in worksite cafeterias, and offering healthier options at reduced prices.
• Implemented a tobacco-free worksite policy that goes beyond buildings to cover grounds and vehicles and making sure employees know of QUITPLAN and other cessation resources available to them.
• Increasing employees’ access to physical activity, for example, by allowing employees to combine breaks with lunch when used for physical activity, and by adding mapped walking routes or an on-site fitness center to an employer’s facility.

Other SHIP-funded projects in Rice County are also helping the community’s collective health status. New bike racks have been installed, public gardens have been planted, and new signage brightens up the county’s walking and biking trails. A workshop on healthy school lunch attracted more than 40 school and day care staff. SHIP initiatives also encourage children and youth to play more actively at recess or through physical education classes, sports or after-school activities.

To learn more about Rice County’s wellness programs, visit

Open a PDF copy of this Rice County worksite wellness success story.


State Bank of Faribault employees now have access to stability balls in the office break room.


Small Business

The Small Business Alliance wants to bring the best information, in the most useful ways, to small businesses and their employees, centered around the idea of being smarter, more informed consumers of health care, with a special emphasis on workplace wellness.

In working to provide a wide range of relevant information to small businesses, we have the energy, support and influence of some of Minnesota’s largest employers, and the expertise of public health through our relationship with the State Health Improvement Program.

In this era of increasing healthcare costs, troubling health trends, and information confusion and overload, we want to cut through the fog and confusion, and inform businesses with credible, useful information.

While healthcare continues to get more complex and expensive, private organizations and individuals have the ability to control what we can – without mandates.  By focusing on overall health, and clarity of information and options, we think people will be healthier, and businesses will thrive.

Are you interested in participating in a focus group on these needs, or just give us your thoughts? Contact


You’re Invited – Fun Fitness Event!

The Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota is planning a fun event for the whole family to get moving. On Sunday March 27, we’re hosting a fitness fair from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. It’s free and open to the public!  Event details:

  • Use the upper concourse to walk a mile, a 5K, or as far as you’d like to go.
  • Bring your own skates (or rent for $3) and take a spin on the same ice used by the Gopher Women’s Hockey team
  • Meet former Biggest Loser contestant Jesse Atkins
  • Talk with personal trainers from Snap Fitness and get advice about your own exercise plan
  • Attend any of the free fitness sessions by Snap Fitness:

11:00 a.m. – Stretching
Noon – Core and Strength Training
1:00 p.m. – Balanced Fitness

  • Complete a free body composition test
  • Register to win cool prizes, like a one-year membership to Snap Fitness or a new bicycle!

This event is open to everyone – so spread the word! We hope to see you there!


What is Healthy?

People tend to rely on a number on a scale to measure their health.  But true health is not measured by this number alone.  Here, Dr. Marc Manley, Chief Prevention Officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, answers a few questions about what it means to be healthy.

We all tend to focus on the number on the scale as a measure of our health.  But is that really the best indicator?

Weight is an important part of your health.  People who are too heavy are at increased risk for a number of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  Excess weight can also interfere with your ability to do things you want to do.

It’s important for people to know if they’re at a healthy weight for their height.  A term called Body Mass Index is a scale that factors your height into the equation.  You can find a Body Mass Index calculator on many websites (including  These calculators will also tell you if you’re in the normal range.

If we don’t use weight, how can we measure success in a health/wellness program?

Weight is only one aspect of your health.  There are lots of other measures of health.

In a wellness program you can work on many aspects of your health.  Success will depend on your goals for the program.  If you’re trying to get more physical activity you might measure the number of steps you take each day, using a pedometer.  Or you might measure the time you spend being active each day.   Someone who is trying to improve their diet may count calories, or count the number of servings of fruits and vegetables eaten each day.

What are the key “numbers” we should all know about ourselves?

Adults should know their weight, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  It’s also important to know something about your diet.   Everyone should be striving to eat at least five helpings of fruits and vegetables every day.  That’s an easy number to count.  Everyone also needs to get at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity every day, so that’s another important and easy number you should know.   I also recommend that people know how much sodium is in their diet.  You might be surprised at how much you’re eating.  Most adults should be eating less than 1500 milligrams per day.

Can a person who’s thin be unhealthy?   Or can someone who’s overweight be healthy?

Being thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy.  People sometimes lose weight because they’re sick.  Health is about more than just weight.

Someone who is overweight can be relatively healthy, especially if they’re getting plenty of physical activity and eating the right foods.  Of course, by doing those two things, most people lose weight and become even healthier.  But it’s important to know that an active person, no matter what their weight,  is less likely to get sick than an inactive person.  Weight, diet, activity, and many other factors all contribute to your level of health.

Dr. Marc Manley is the Chief Prevention officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.