News & Latest research

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Nine Year Impact Report From Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm

Health care is moving beyond hospital and clinic walls and out into communities. In New Ulm, Minn., an initiative from the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) has been paving the way.

Since 2009, Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU) has been helping people in New Ulm, Minn., improve their risk factors for heart disease and reduce the number of heart attacks. As a collaborative partnership of MHIF, Allina Health and the New Ulm community, the 10-year population health research project has offered a unique environment for studying how various interventions, systems and environmental improvements, along with policy changes, can impact the health of an entire community.

Results big and small have converged to transform the community and propel a shift to a culture where health is a shared value for all. The project’s success is a result of fostering an exceptional level of engagement among residents and partners; implementing an integrated, evidence-based approach; and nurturing supportive environments — especially food and built environments. Throughout the project, MHIF has rigorously measured and reported outcomes, and developed leadership approaches that are being replicated. Today, the project continues to capture the attention of health care thought leaders on regional, national and international levels.

Read our Nine Year Impact Report about the project to learn more. 

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Population-level Impact of a Community-wide Weight Challenge

Research published by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® online in Obesity Science and Practice in March 2018 shows that a weight management challenge targeting an entire community may help overweight or obese participants lose weight and healthy weight participants avoid weight gain. The research showed that a low-intensity weight management challenge in a rural Minnesota community was associated with a modest, but statistically significant, average weight loss of 2 percent (about 4 pounds) over one year among adults who were overweight or obese at enrollment.

The community-wide weight challenge was conducted in conjunction with Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU), which is designed to reduce community members’ risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). HONU is a population health demonstration project of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation in partnership with Allina Health’s New Ulm Medical Center and the community of New Ulm, Minn.

“Since the HONU Project began in 2009, we had observed some rather impressive improvements in CVD risk factors among community members, such as blood pressure and cholesterol control, as well as increased fruit and vegetable consumption. But we really had not seen a noticeable improvement in body weight,” said Rebecca Lindberg, MPH, RD, director of population health from Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, and member of the research team. “Given the single health care system in New Ulm and existing HONU population health surveillance activities using the electronic health record, this study offered an uncommon opportunity to gauge the impact of a weight management challenge across the entire community.” Access the study here

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Improving the Rural Restaurant Food Environment

In the January 2018 issue of Public Health Nutrition, new research published by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation shows that a community-wide program aimed at improving the rural restaurant food environment may hold promise for increasing the availability, identification and promotion of healthier food and beverage options. 

The research showed that over an 18-month period, across all restaurants in the rural Minnesota community of New Ulm, the availability of non-fried vegetable offerings increased from 63 percent to 84 percent. The availability of fruit offerings increased from 41 percent to 53 percent, and the offerings of smaller portions and whole grains also increased. While all restaurants evaluated in the community made improvements in healthy menu practices, restaurants that participated in a community-wide program with a simple-to-implement intervention were more likely to meet or adopt those healthy practices than those that did not participate in the program.

“In a community where obesity and low fruit and vegetable consumption have been identified as problems, we were very pleased to see an increase in the number of restaurants that offer fruit and vegetables and smaller portions,” said Rebecca Lindberg, MPH, RD, director of population health from Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, and member of the research team. “This represents a significant improvement in the food environment of this rural community.” Access the study here.

 

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Metabolic Syndrome and Lifestyle Changes

In the June 2017 issue of Preventive Medicine Reports, researchers from the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation®(MHIF) and Allina Health published findings of a study that examined two-year changes in key lifestyle risk metrics and incident metabolic syndrome in adults. The retrospective cohort study used data on metabolic syndrome free adults from Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, which is a 10-year population health research project being conducted by MHIF in partnership with Allina Health’s New Ulm Medical Center in New Ulm, Minn.

Dr. Thomas Knickelbine, a cardiologist and MHIF research physician, said, “We found that a primary predictor for incident metabolic syndrome over a two-year study timeframe was change in optimal lifestyle score based on four behavioral risk factors, including smoking, alcohol use, fruit/vegetable consumption, and physical activity. As compared to improving poor lifestyle habits, maintaining a healthy lifestyle seemed to be most helpful in avoiding metabolic syndrome over the two-year study timeframe.” Read the full study results here.

Events & Presentations

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The Heart of New Ulm Project: Population Health Takes a Village
Webinar: Hosted by The Public Health Foundation

In New Ulm, Minn., an exciting partnership focused on heart health was formed 11 years ago. Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project has been a successful partnership to reduce heart attacks and improve heart disease risk in a rural Minnesota town. On March 21, 2018 the Public Health Foundation hosted a webinar to discuss this innovative program led by the New Ulm Medical Center in partnership with the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, Brown County Public Health, city leaders and government, local public schools, chamber of commerce, and department of parks and recreation. View the archived webinar and discussion questions here.

 

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Rural Health Care Transformation Webinar Series

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s® (MHIF) population health team and Allina Health’s New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) partnered with the National Rural Health Association to present a three-part webinar series on rural health care transformation. The series shared lessons learned from MHIF and NUMC’s collaborative work on the award-winning, 10-year population health research project called Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project in rural New Ulm, Minn.

The webinars helped empower health care leaders to embrace health care solutions designed to achieve the Triple Aim of improving the care experience (quality and access), increasing value, and improving population health outcomes.

To listen to a recording of the three webinars, click here.