Rural Health Transformation Center
Our vision is to simplify and accelerate rural community health improvement efforts for sustainability and impact. Guided by our real-world experience, our rural health consulting team works collaboratively to help communities build individual and community capacity and activate their plans in order to achieve long-term, sustained health outcomes.
Real-world Experience in Population Health
The Rural Health Transformation Center is housed at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF), which aims to create a world without heart and vascular disease. As a research and education foundation, we are passionate about evidence-based solutions to population health improvement. With more than 20 years of experience, our Rural Health Transformation Team has most recently been putting evidence-based guidelines, interventions, systems changes and policies into action while measuring long-term health improvement outcomes in the award-winning Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project in rural New Ulm, Minn.
The population health transformation that the MHIF team helped engineer in New Ulm, Minn., was featured in a compelling 2016 documentary from Health Catalyst that highlighted the bold, groundbreaking initiative aimed at reducing heart disease. Watch to learn how Hearts Beat Back:® The Heart of New Ulm Project produced incredible financial and health outcomes to prevent disease versus treating it after it occurs.
Helping You Achieve Sustainable Community Health Improvement
Our Rural Health Transformation Center team is well versed in creating sustainable change. We are passionate about evidence-based solutions to community rural health improvement and sharing lessons learned from our award-winning initiative, Hearts Beat Back:® The Heart of New Ulm Project.
By taking the best practices from our on-the-ground experience, we’ve developed a proven process that will help you achieve improved health outcomes and sustainable change. As your partner, we’ll ensure you cultivate and inspire key stakeholders to champion priorities to transform health. With vast experience and industry-leading best practices, our diverse team of experts offers affordable, tailored consulting services to help representatives from health care systems, public health, higher education, government and/or community organizations.
Are you stymied with how to address a particular health improvement challenge in your rural community? Developing a comprehensive communications strategy, transitioning the mindset of a community, or improving the food and built environments to support healthier choices can all be challenging, but the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With many of these challenges, a process of small but proven, well-choreographed steps can begin to tip the scales in your favor for success. In each of the webinars in our series, we show you how to start the process to solve a specific challenge in your community and offer you valuable tools and resources that can help.
News & Events
Newly published MHIF research shows modest but clinically meaningful reduction in the burden of cardiovascular disease in rural New Ulm
According to new research published in an online issue of the American Heart Journal, residents in the rural community of New Ulm, MN experienced fewer cardiovascular events during nine years of The Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU) interventions when compared with a matched rural Minnesota community.
As part of our work to help other communities implement the most effective interventions for improving population health, MHIF’s Population Health Team has published its latest paper, “Population-Level Reach of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Interventions in a Rural Community: Findings from The Heart of New Ulm Project” in the February 2020 issue of Population Health Management.
News & Events
Study shows community-based interventions help residents make nutrition and physical activity improvements
According to new research published in the March 2019 online issue of Preventive Medicine Reports, a community-based health intervention may significantly improve lifestyle risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) across an entire community.
News & Events
Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project received the 2018 Heart Healthy Stroke Free Award from the National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention. The Heart Healthy Stroke Free Award is presented annually to an organization whose work embodies the recommendations made in the national Public Health Action Plan to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke.
Meet Our Team
Gretchen Benson, RDN, CDCES
Program Director, Center for Cardiovascular Health
Gretchen Benson is currently the program director for the Nolan Family Center for Cardiovascular Health and Rural Health Transformation Center at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. Ms. Benson served as health care program manager for Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU) for 10 years during the research phase of the project. She leveraged her passion for population health and background as a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator to work collaboratively with key community partners, including New Ulm Medical Center, to plan and implement innovative programming efforts across health care, worksites, the community and the environment.
Cindy Winters, BA
Project Manager, Population Health
Cindy Winters is project manager for population health in the Rural Health Transformation Center at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. Ms. Winters has more than 20 years experience helping to activate community members to use their power to create environments that support and sustain healthy lifestyle behaviors. She served as project manager for Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project for seven years during the research phase of the project, bringing stakeholders together around the shared value of health to implement evidence-based policy, systems and environmental changes to promote and sustain a culture of health. She has extensive experience in strategically developing and maintaining networks of individuals and organizations necessary for the success and sustainability of community health initiatives, while building local community health leadership capacity.
Joy Hayes, MS, RDN, LD, CDCES
Specialist, Population Health
Joy Hayes is a population health specialist in the Rural Health Transformation Center with more than 30 years of experience as a dietitian and diabetes educator helping people of all ages and diverse backgrounds with prevention and management of heart disease and diabetes. During the research phase of Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, Ms. Hayes served as a health coach providing phone coaching to individuals at high risk or with active heart disease or diabetes to help them adopt healthier lifestyles. She was honored as 2015 Diabetes Educator of the Year by the Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.
Jennifer Beaudette, BS, CHES
Specialist, Population Health
Jennifer Beaudette is a Certified Health Education Specialist who serves as a population health specialist in the Rural Health Transformation Center. Ms. Beaudette has more than 25 years of experience in various areas of population health, health coaching and exercise prescription. During the research phase of Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project, Ms. Beaudette served as a health educator providing phone coaching to individuals at high risk or with active heart disease or diabetes to help them adopt healthier lifestyles. She also has been an integral part of the MHIF Population Health Team’s work with the New Ulm-Healthy Home Offerings via the Mealtime Environment (NU-HOME) program, an 18-month research program conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Schools of Nursing, Public Health and Kinesiology in collaboration with The Heart of New Ulm Project.