The history of this unique movement has been a testimony to what can occur when true collaboration is given opportunity to grow and develop out of citizen-driven ideas and efforts.

Innovative solutions to community engagement on the topic of wellness were ignited with a collaborative beginning in 2009. Center for Innovation and Patient Centered Medical Home, both of Mayo Clinic, approached Mayo Clinic Health System Austin (MCHS) in exploring what authentic grassroots community engagement could look like. Citizens and organizations have taken the challenge a step forward to consider how improving community wellness might be accomplished with limited access to funding. We have learned that little funding can be discouraging at times but can lead to opportunity for creativity, collaborations and common sense solutions.

MCHS Austin took on the challenge in 2010 and began gathering research specific to Mower County. The research came from collaborations with Public Health, United Way of Mower County, and on-going citizen feedback. An anthropologist did fieldwork in the area exploring what motivated people to be healthy and the challenges to making healthy choices. Late 2010 MCHS Austin committed to the wellness effort that was developing by hiring a consultant to assist the efforts in taking root. To date, MCHS Austin continues to support Mower Refreshed by providing resources to the movement in many ways but specifically by funding a community health and wellness coordinator for the effort.

Late in June a wellness summit was held with the hope of bringing area professionals together to hear the research and consider what next steps might be. At this summit four challenges for our county surfaced. Though presented as challenges, citizens took an important step back to refocus and consider these challenges not as negative but with a solution-based vision.

With energy increasing and organization beginning to take form, the four challenges were developed into four positive focuses all based on the research rather than any one organizations opinion:

  • Healthier Choice’s
  • Mental Fitness
  • Workplace Wellness
  • Community Connection

As the Steering Committee formed, the work of developing guiding principles, goals and outcomes for the goal groups began. 2011 continued with a growing number of citizens engaging in efforts and organizations ready to share resources with the common goal of improving the health of Mower County but not with another program, something bigger that had yet to be discovered. Mower Refreshed was a name inspired by citizens and provided a platform for exploring how to define what Mower Refreshed was about.

Citizens understood it was different than a program, which has a beginning and an end. A citizen shared that Mower Refreshed was like a volume dial…always on, just at different levels, a movement not a program. This was a pivotal point for the effort: a name and description discovered! This is just one of the citizen-inspired moments of Mower Refreshed!

Fall brought a 2nd Annual Wellness Summit that created energy and hope as goal groups shared how resources and ideas were shared and weaved together. Organizations were acting as teams rather than silos. Theory was being transformed into practical action that citizens could experience. Mower Refreshed experienced a growth spurt!

As Mower Refreshed grew in numbers of engaged citizen and organizations, 2012 brought development of tools and networks to make the healthier choice easier for all citizens. Determining population measures were a key step that provides all that we do with healthy boundaries and practical guidance in our decision making.

Mower Refreshed is about exploring creative ways to connect with citizens, always considering sensibility for our county and sustainability. We welcome you to join history, your history that’s in the making, of how a small county in southern Minnesota and its citizens decided to make healthier choices a bit easier for those who live, work, play and learn in their communities!