Biker, on your Left
It is health care week here in the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court protest tourism business is booming. I just hope they are better drivers than the cherry blossom peepers.
I don’t get to present at PWPB2012; I will be much too busy to actually enjoy the conference. One of the perks I do enjoy is reading all the proposals and getting inspired. Today I am inspired, so I will indulge in a few words about my interests…
Today we publish CenterLines #301. In it is a story about Minnesota’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) which caught my attention for a few reasons: 1) Minnesota is where I am from; 2) SHIP is the progeny of an active living program NCBW’s worked on; and 3) SHIP represents an interesting/innovative model of an apolitical federal/state/private sector collaboration–until now, at least.
Background: SHIP is administered by the Minnesota Department of Health; it reaches into all counties where it focuses on nutrition, tobacco prevention, and/or physical inactivity. The regimen a county selects is based on its unique needs, and interventions are drawn from The Guide to Community Prevention. This stuff works: it is peer-reviewed, and evidence-based.
Republican Governor Pawlenty signed SHIP into law, and did so with the enthusiastic support of Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Minnesota, the state’s largest health insurer. The two year $47M program began in 2010 and promised $1B savings in avoided health care costs. You don’t get much better ROI than that. Well, maybe if you walked around picking up banana peels from the sidewalk, you would get a greater public health benefit.
The $47M sum sounds like a windfall when compared against the small amount we spend prevention programs; it pales when compared to the $6,913 spent providing health care for each Minnesotan the year SHIP was passed. SHIP amounts to $4/person.
Alas, even in the great state of Minnesota, the program slipped on a political banana peel:
I don’t believe, and have not seen, any evidence that the money being spent has any measurable effect on anything,’ said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee. ‘Is it the duty of the state government to provide bike racks to people?’…”
Health care costs are the single most volitale item on our balance sheet.
Now if a state or community can tout a healthier, happier, and less expensive workforce, then that’s a huge competitive advantage. That sounds like a irresistible rationale for public investment in complete streets, SRTS, workplace wellness, transit, bicycling infrastructure, and programs to support all these things.
Another depiction of economic competitiveness: percentage of family income going towards health insurance premiums.