Heart of New Ulm Project: A Community's Quest to Eliminate Heart Attacks

By Rachael Moeller Gorman, "The Town That Lost 7,961 Pounds," January/February 2013

How the town of New Ulm joined together to lose weight, lower cholesterol levels and eat healthier.

It Takes a Village

To help citizens get a jump-start, HONU created the Take Five! Community Health Challenge. As part of the program, it mailed out a full-color booklet outlining a 12-week program to successfully lose weight— complete with logbook, scores of tips and goals and methods—to every household in the town.

The Challenge encouraged small changes and daily self-tracking of these changes: losing 5 pounds, being physically active 5 days a week, eating 5 times a day (3 meals, 2 snacks), eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day, taking 5 minutes each day for yourself. The program promoted free phone coaching for individuals at high risk for heart disease, and no-cost events, such as square dancing classes in the park, cooking classes at the medical center and neighborhood walking clubs.

HONU also developed and produces a weekly cable-access healthy-cooking show, “What’s Cooking New Ulm?” with dietitian Rebecca Fliszar. She visits the kitchens of home cooks and works with them to demonstrate how to make healthier meals, often using EatingWell recipes. (In fact, EatingWell recipes are used in almost all the materials HONU publishes, on its website and in cooking classes and demonstrations.)

Restaurants were encouraged to revamp their menus and the town’s two grocery stores put up signs in their aisles encouraging healthy swaps, such as water for soda.

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