The town of New Ulm, Minnesota is known as the most German city in the U.S. with a heavy focus on its beer, butter, and bratwurst. Ethnically and geographically isolated in southwest Minnesota, it has become an interesting laboratory, of sorts, to experiment with healthcare programs focused on changing lifestyles by increasing activity, changing diets, and improving the rate of wellness screenings.
With a parks and recreation budget three times that of other communities their size, the city founders, in the mid-1800s, mandated parks every half mile to encourage lives of health and wellness. Unfortunately, those early investments weren’t sufficient for its modern day citizens to avoid the challenges of increasing heart disease, obesity, and diabetes that soon plagued them just as much as the general population.
Though this is one small town of under 14,000 residents, the news is significant. In fact, the Heart of New Ulm Project that has transformed the lifestyles of people here is poised to impact communities of every size across the nation.