Documentary on Heart of New Ulm previewed at Medical Center

NEW ULM – For the last eight years New Ulm has been a part of city wide health initiative called Hearts Beat Back Heart of New Ulm (HONU). The success of the program is now the subject of a 20 minute documentary. On Friday, a special screening of the film “The Story of New Ulm: A Population Health Transformation,” was held at New Ulm Medical Center.

This documentary had previously screened Sept. 7 at the Healthcare Analytics Summit in Utah. New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) President Toby Freier was the keynote speaker for the summit. Freier also introduced the film on Friday, saying this story is about more than just the 14,000 residents of New Ulm.

The goal of the HONU project has been to eliminate heart disease from the community. Rather than simple focus on the clinical elements the HONU project engaged the community and integrated health activities into every day life. The theory is people do not change unhealthy behavior from a single clinic visit, but change through a transformation of their environment.

The documentary showed how nearly every aspect of resident’s life was incorporated in the health movement. The video included testimonials from Chamber President Audra Shaneman, Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz, School District Superintendent Jeff Bertrang and Turner Hall General Manager Virginia Sukor Moldan on efforts to incorporate heathy options for residents at work, the restaurant, in the parks and at school.

Eight years into the program there has been a marked increase in overall community health. Since the HONU Project began New Ulm has seen a three percent reduction in smoking rates, a seven percent increase of blood pressure in the recommended range, five percent improvement in total cholesterol at optimal control and one percent reduction in obesity levels. Since 2015, New Ulm Medical has seen 11 percent improvement for colon cancer screening for lower income patients covered by Medical Assistance and three percent improvement for breast cancer screenings. The total cost of care for medicare patients is 14 percent below peer benchmarks in 2015, saving Medicare approximately $1,000 per beneficiary. Hospital admission rates were 40 percent below peer benchmarks, meaning the New Ulm is doing better at preventing and managing chronic illness and keeping people out of the hospital.

Following the screening, Freier took question and suggestions from the audience on how to move forward. Freier said he was inspired by the results but believed the community was only scratching the surface on was possible. New Ulm Medical Center and the Heart of New Ulm project is looking for ways to continue their success into the next decade.

“These outcomes show we are achieving the Triple Aim of healthcare: improved quality, improved health, and improved affordability,” Freier said.

The film will be available online within the next month. The video will launch on a new website incorporating additional information from the Hearts Beat Back: Heart of New Ulm Project.

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