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Heart of New Ulm activities off to a good start in 2021

The Brown County Chemical Health Action Team launched in the summer of 2020.

With 2021 in full swing, the many community members and organizations that comprise the Heart of New Ulm (HONU) have big plans for another year working to improve the health, well-being and quality of life of all New Ulm-area residents through education, available resources, initiatives and partnerships. Working off its three-year action plan for 2020-2022 (available at www.heartofnewulm.com), HONU continues its focus on three key areas: 1) healthy lifestyles, 2) mental health, and 3) addiction and risky use of substances.

Despite the pandemic and changes to the way we all work, HONU’s community-based leadership and action teams are busy with a number of activities for 2021. Here are a few highlights:

The Downtown Action Team is working with the city to develop a downtown parklet program, expanding art in the downtown area by installing a mural on the Nuvera Building, looking for additional opportunities to incorporate art downtown, and designing the last three of nine historical table wraps. The team is also investigating opportunities to bring the Farmers Market downtown in some form, and educating downtown business owners and residents about the benefits associated with two-way vs. one-way streets.

The Safe Routes to School Action Team and the Coalition for Active, Safe and Healthy Streets (CASHS) are working with MnDOT to install an enhanced crosswalk at 4th South and Broadway so children have a safer place to cross Broadway this summer. The teams will also be conducting a social media campaign around safe streets and trail use and providing education to residents about the benefits of slower speed limits on residential streets.

The New Ulm Bike Group is reapplying for a four-year renewal of the Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Communities Designation from the League of American Bicyclists, which New Ulm first received in May 2017. If approved, the renewal designation will run until May 2025.

The Food Environment Action Team is continuing the “Wellness the NU Way” campaign, which launched last year and focuses on encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables, enjoy screen-free meals, and choose healthy snacks. The team also continues its work with the Healthy Restaurant Program, where participating restaurants offer a variety of healthier eating options, such as more fruits and vegetables, smaller portion sizes, whole grain options and more. The team is also planning to partner with the farmers market to offer a Power of Produce campaign.

The Mental Health Action Team is focusing on self-care and social isolation and continuing its partnership with local nursing homes to help seniors who are socially isolated by connecting seniors with youth and other community members. The team is also providing information on the signs and symptoms of depression and promoting messages to help reduce the stigma of mental illness.

The Brown County Chemical Health Action Team was launched in the summer of 2020 and is comprised of representatives from various organizations across the county. The new action team’s goal is to support educational programs, activities and policies that increase awareness of addiction and misuse of legal substances, and also address the use of illegal substances. The team is working to promote sober activities, create social activities that do not involve the use of substances, and plan and implement a responsible drinking campaign.

The Worksite Wellness Action Team continues to offer virtual Worksite Wellness Networking and Training events and is sending a survey to worksites to help determine future stress management trainings for employers.

As a community owned and driven health improvement initiative, the Heart of New Ulm maintains a diverse group of community leaders and residents to oversee the decision making and work of the project. The Leadership Team is educating community leaders about the status of health equity in New Ulm and working to encourage decision makers to address health equity during their organizations’ decision making processes. The team also manages HONU’s communications strategy and information. The members of the Leadership Team are:

Ashley Aukes, Community representative

Jeff Bertrang, New Ulm Public Schools

John Brownfield, New Ulm Medical Center Foundation Board

Carisa Buegler, New Ulm Medical Center

Chris Dalton, City of New Ulm

Lydia Drexler, Windings, Inc.

Nate Groebner, New Ulm Medical Center

Sarah Leslie, Community representative

Michael Looft, New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce

Karen Moritz, Brown County Public Health

Les Schultz, Brown County

Jessie Weisbrich, Oak Hills Living Center

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