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Patience a virtue lacking in politics ?

March 15, 2012
The Journal

In 2009 the Minnesota Legislature approved a program called the Statewide Health Improvement, or SHIP. It was intended to be a long term program to encourage Minnesotans to eat better and exercise more at home and at work. The benefits would be healthier people who spent less on medical care, which would save employers and the state a bundle of money - $1.9 billion in health care costs.

A report in the Star Tribune on Wednesday indicates that SHIP is sinking in popularity with legislators. Its critics claim the program has been spending money, but they aren't seeing the benefits.

"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), chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

And the spending has been considerable. The state budgeted $47 million for the first two years, but trimmed that to $15 million as the state struggled to balance its budget.

The program has encouraged creation of community gardens, fresher foods in schools, workplace wellness programs, etc. Its proponents say it takes time to overcome decades of unhealthy habits.

Now, it is unreasonable to expect the program to produce results right up front. It's like planting an apple tree in the morning and expecting applesauce for dinner.

But it can also be argued that the state shouldn't be looking over your shoulder, telling you to eat your vegetables and go outside and play for a while instead of sitting around watching TV. That's what moms are for.

Still, the state has invested a lot of money already in SHIP, and pulling the plug on it now would be a waste of that money. Legislators should practice some patience -?a commodity in short supply in most legislative offices - and give SHIP a chance to produce results.



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