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Boreal Community Media

A conversation with Kristina Mattson, Cook County's newest SHIP Coordinator

Oct 13, 2022 11:35AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Ivan Calderon

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - October 13, 2022

Wednesday, October 12, 2022, was International Walk to School day. 

In Grand Marais, four “walking school bus” routes were planned and organized in partnership with the local Safe Routes to School Committee. These walking school buses started at four different areas of town and eventually went to Cook County and Great Expectation Schools. Students, parents, guardians, and community members were invited to take part in helping kids get some extra movement into their day (grown-ups too), and reduce emissions from driving to school. 

These types of events don’t just create themselves out of thin air, and the coordinated Walk to School Day isn’t an exception. In the past, this event has been organized by the SHIP Coordinator for Cook County in partnership with the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Committee (for Cook County, the SHIP Coordinator, and SRTS Coordinator have been the same person). 

This year is no exception. Recently, a grant was obtained to fund the SHIP Coordinator position for Cook County, who is then employed by PHHS. The person who filled that role is Kristina Mattson. 

SHIP stands for Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), and has an important role in helping our community. 

Boreal Community Media chatted with Mattson about SHIP: what it is, what it means for those of us in Cook County, and what she’s working on this fall. 

“This is not the first SHIP Coordinator Cook County has had”, Mattson started off with. Grand Portage has its own SHIP Coordinator as well.

“SHIP is actually a program through the Minnesota Department of Health, and coordinators are located all throughout the state to help fulfill the goals of the SHIP program. There is a regional SHIP coordinator, and then local positions, like mine, underneath that one. Originally, the role was housed out of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, but now it’s under Cook County PHHS.” 

The goals are what you may think of when you think of a Statewide Health Improvement Partnership program: community-driven solutions for active living, healthy eating, and tobacco prevention through policy, systems, and environmental change.

Partnerships, coalitions, and collaborations, like the one with the local Safe Routes to School Committee for International Walk to School Day, are crucial for creating community-driven solutions. 

“SHIP really hones in on preventing chronic disease and promoting wellness within a community. We work with all types of community entities like schools, healthcare, workplaces, childcare, etc. We act as a bridge to connect entities with others to create real change” Mattson explained.

So what types of things are on the “would love to tackle” roadmap for Mattson?

“First, to continue with Safe Routes to School, we just received a large grant to create a bike fleet and to provide bike education in school. We are hoping to broaden the use of the bike fleet throughout the community by establishing partnerships. If you’re interested, reach out to me,” she added. 

Additionally, Mattson has and would like to continue to work with BikeMN to do bike workshops, similar to the workshops and events held at the Community Center each year. Projects would include creating bikeable, walkable, and rollable communities to help people feel safe and comfortable in their transportation needs or choices. 

Another hope is to be able to partner with Cook County Extension to create a food system mapping project. The project would help people gain access to local and healthy foods, as well as identify the barriers. 

“I want to learn how we can support people who want to grow their own food in the area, and of course, that includes looking at food sovereignty in Tribal Nations”, Mattson said. 

Other hopes include working with employers in the area to implement recent legislative changes for breastfeeding in the workplace, youth engagement - including engaging marginalized youth, and partnering with active living groups to see where barriers are for people to live an active lifestyle. 

And those are just Mattson’s goals a couple of months into the position. “I have a lot I want to accomplish”, she added. 

As for the month of October, the focus is on Safe Routes to School. Through SHIP, she coordinated the local version of the International Walk to School day, and reminds people that the 20mph school zones in front of Great Expectations and ISD 166 are in place and enforceable from 7:30 am - 8:30 am, and 2:30pm - 3:30pm. 

“SHIP actually played a role in having that 20mph zone come to fruition for the safety of our kids and school staff. Of course, people are encouraged to follow the school zone speed all the time because there are lots of kids in that area, but it’s only enforceable via the times mentioned above”, Mattson said. 

“We also want to encourage people to familiarize themselves with the bus rules. If the bus has its flashers on and the stop sign/bus arm is out, it is unlawful to pass. 

Related: Drivers encouraged to review bus safety laws as kids head back to school

Continuing with the safe transportation theme, Mattson mentioned that Ann Schultz of District 166 has completed bike/walk/fun curriculum this summer and will be putting it into the physical education curriculum for the 22-23 school year. 

Looking ahead, SHIP, in partnership with Public Health and Human Safety is planning its annual Bike Rodeo event for 2023. They are in need of people who are adept at bike maintenance and could volunteer at the event. 

If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more about SHIP, you can reach out to Kristina Mattson at [email protected]