Statewide Health Improvement Program Funds Multiple Recreation Portals
By Mike Dolbow, News Editor
Several new interactive mapping web sites that focus on recreation opportunities have been released over the past year, and some have been highlighted in this newsletter. If you’ve noticed that several of these sites have a similar look and feel, that’s no coincidence. All of these sites have benefited from Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) funding distributed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) during the 2009-2011 budget cycle. And according to Carver County GIS Supervisor Pete Henschel, that common funding mechanism led to an informal agreement on sharing a recreational data model and programming efforts.
MDH’s website says that SHIP “was developed in response to the 2007 Minnesota Legislature's request to develop a plan for statewide health promotion to address the rising cost of health and health care in our state.” Through 53 community health boards, all 87 counties have received SHIP funding in one way or another, and 20 counties have implemented a “recreation portal” with the funding, resulting in four single-county sites in the metro area and two multi-county regional sites in the southeast and north central regions of the state (see sidebar).
“We thought about having one metro portal, but that turned out to be a bit too complicated,” says Henschel. Nevertheless, he and several other county GIS leaders agreed to use a common data model for trails, from the National Recreation and Park Association. And several groups had individual contracts with Houston Engineering for site development, they made a concerted effort to share as much of the programming code as possible. The result is that a user familiar with Anoka County’s recreational portal will have little trouble using Ramsey County’s, and vice versa.
MDH’s SHIP supervisor Rachel Cohen says that “any tool that increases access to physical activities meets the goals of the program”, but final reports from the first years of the program are still being filed, so no official evaluation has been performed as yet. While Anoka County has received limited (and mostly positive) feedback via a user survey, “most of the sites are too new to have garnered significant attention from the public,” according to MDH SHIP Evaluator and Research Scientist Joanne Moze.
For the future, Cohen and Moze say that SHIP funding was reduced from $47 million to $15 million for the 2012-13 budget cycle, so the menu of future grant options will likely look different. Regardless, it is clear to the GIS community that the program has opened up new resources and conversations about GIS’s role in the public health arena.
For more information on SHIP, see http://www.health.state.mn.us/healthreform/ship/index.html, or contact Joanne Moze, Joanne.Moze@state.mn.us, 651-201-5393.
For links to various recreational portals, see the sidebar.
Prior GIS/LIS news articles: Carver County, Anoka County.
Links to Recreation Portals
Links to county and regional recreation portals are below. (All except the North Central site require the Microsoft Silverlight browser plugin.)
- Anoka - Go AnokaCounty
- Carver - GoCarverGo
- Scott - GoScottGo
- Ramsey - GoRamsey
Southeast Minnesota - GoSoutheastMN - includes:
- Winona (host county)
Region Five Development Commission - North Central MN Parks & Trails - includes:
- Crow Wing
- Todd (host county)