News & Latest research


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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


The Heart of New Ulm Project: Population Health Takes a Village
Hosted by The Public Health Foundation
Monday, March 21, 2018 | 12:00 - 1:00pm CST

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. Join the Public Health Foundation to learn about 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. Click here to learn more and register.


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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.



New Learning Guide on Best Practices for Engagement in Population Health Initiatives

A new learning guide, “The Power of True Engagement for Population Health,” has been published by the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s® (MHIF) population health team in conjunction with AcademyHealth. The population health team, which manages MHIF’s award-winning, 10-year population health research project called Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project in New Ulm, Minn., participated as one of five subject matter expert communities in AcademyHealth’s 2016-17 Community Health Peer Learning Program.

The learning guide provides population health initiatives with guidance on how to foster stakeholder engagement in key activities and achieve broader mission buy-in among community partners and observers. The guide includes numerous case study examples from The Heart of New Ulm Project.

Rebecca Lindberg, MHIF’s director of population health, said, “Meaningful stakeholder engagement is one of the most important factors, if arguably not the most important factor, in the success of a population health initiative. When engagement is done thoughtfully and viewed as an ongoing, iterative process, a community can transform policies, systems, environments and indeed, its entire culture. Health can become a part of the fabric of the community, with an impact that’s visible wherever people live, work, learn and play.”

The complete learning guide, an executive summary and a communications strategy primer are available here. More information on how health care leaders can partner with MHIF to improve population health in their communities is available here.