Moving toward a healthier Crow Wing County

Summit Adam at Tobacco Table.jpg
Adam Rees, president at Essentia Health Central Market, and based at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd, talks to a small group looking at the issue of tobacco use during the Crow Wing Energized Health Summit. Submitted photo

When we think about improving our health and the health of our community, there are a number of areas that we could all benefit from in making healthier choices.

But where do you focus?

When it comes to what makes people healthy, health care only plays a small role. The majority of health outcomes are determined by health behaviors (smoking, diet, exercise and drinking) and socio-economic factors (education, employment, income and safety).

Every three years Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center releases a Community Health Needs Assessment and Implementation Plan online for the community to review. The assessment is a report that focuses on the resident’s perception of what the community’s health needs are. That feedback was gathered from two surveys with 1,322 responses, seven focus groups with 750 participants, and through 23 partnering organizations. This feedback provided critical thinking about what we can all do together to make a difference in our communities, taking preventative issues in the community seriously to work on prevention.

The community voiced these areas as key concerns:


  • Substance Abuse

  • Nutrition

  • Physical Activity

  • Mental Health

Crow Wing Energized then led focus groups using the results-based accountability approach to decide on the strategies to drive change. Results-based accountability is a process to help move past talking about problems to looking at results as the starting point for making decisions. Through unbiased and collaborative decision-making, action steps are formed quickly.
The groups decided on strategies to move the needle on:

  • The percent of people using tobacco and the percent of people quitting tobacco,

  • The percent of people not eating five or more fruits and vegetables a day,

  • The percent of people not meeting the recommended moderate or vigorous physical activity,

  • The percent of people with 10 or more days, in the past month, of not good mental health days.

Key strategies

Substance Abuse

Strategy No. 1: Advocate for policies that limit accessibility and appeal for youth to use

tobacco products like the Tobacco-21 policy.

Strategy No. 2: Enhance and promote tobacco cessation interventions and resources.

Strategy No. 3: Promote work place incentives that encourage employees to quit smoking


Strategy No 1: Promote and increase participation in the National Diabetes Prevention


Strategy No. 2: Support and encourage new local businesses to offer worksite wellness


programs that encourage nutrition like the ReThink Your Drink campaign, health

vending machine policies, etc.

Strategy No. 3: Support and promote campaigns and programs that encourage eating more

fruits and vegetables like One Vegetable, One Community.

Physical Activity

Strategy No. 1: Support and encourage new local businesses to offer worksite wellness

programs that encourage physical activity like walking meetings, yoga and exercise

rooms, etc.

Strategy No. 2: Promote and support point-of-decision prompts for physical activity


throughout the community like motivational signs on or near stairwells, elevators,

escalators, encouraging people to use the stairs.

Mental Health

Strategy No. 1: Build resilience, optimism, positive self-concepts and hopefulness through

tools like the resiliency toolkits, sleep booklets, three good things notepads, attitude of

gratitude trees and resiliency bookmarks.

Strategy No. 2: Encourage health seeking behaviors through stigma-reduction campaign

like Make It OK and campaign to make community aware of existing resources

Strategy No. 3: Support life-skill building and mindfulness based stress reduction


programing in worksites, schools and communities.

Over the next three years, Crow Wing Energized will continue to support and expand evidence-based practices like the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which encourage healthy eating and physical activity. Not only will successful programs like the diabetes prevention program continue to be a priority but new programs like One Vegetable, One Community will be implemented. One Vegetable, One Community creates a common

messaging and focus on one vegetable for an entire year. With the support of the community around the one vegetable, residents will have opportunities to learn about the health benefits of the vegetable, taste different recipes highlighting the vegetable, and learn how to grow and harvest it. After community insight into the barriers of eating fruits and vegetables, Crow Wing Energized learned that most people know that they should be eating more fruits and vegetables but don’t, due to various reasons including cost, taste, and lack of desire. One Vegetable, One Community is the program the focus groups voted on to try to overcome those barriers.

“I’m so excited about these creative ideas that our community provided to start creating change in Crow Wing County,” said Kalsey Stults, Crow Wing Energized Community Health and Wellness Specialist, in a news release. “I really do feel like the work we are doing is community driven and Crow Wing County residents are so willing to charge headfirst in creating a better community for their families, friends and themselves. It’s very powerful to showcase that enthusiasm in this report for everyone to see.”

The Community Health Needs Assessment highlights the work being done around preventative issues in the community for fiscal years 2020-2022 and can be viewed at online.

Community members from all walks of life are encouraged to participate in the different goal groups through Crow Wing Energized that will continue to move this work forward. Goal group meetings for Mental Fitness, Healthy Choices, Workplace Wellness and Community Connections are open to the public and everyone is invited to attend, no matter your professional background. Learn more at


Summit Kara Adam Summary on Screen.jpg
People gather at the annual Crow Wing Energized Health Summit in Baxter with Kara Griffin, Crow Wing County Community Services program manager and Adam Rees, president Essentia Health Central Market, speaking during the session. Submitted photo

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