Posted at: 07/16/2013 6:45 PM

Print Story  Email to a Friend

Health Commissioner in Rochester Focusing on Wellness

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The Minnesota Department of Health commissioner made several stops in Rochester Tuesday to talk about the Statewide Health Improvement Program.

One of the stops was at The Village at Essex Park Apartments where they've been working to go smoke free. They were able to do so with the help of a grant from the Statewide Health Improvement Program or SHIP.

Going tobacco free is just one of SHIPS’s many initiatives to creating a healthier communities.

Since going tobacco free at The Villages at Essex Park they have already seen big changes.

"It feels cleaner, it smells cleaner, and it feels more healthy," said manager Eric Boline.

Boline says not only has the smoke free policy made for a healthier living environment, it's also helped people quit.

"You really start to evaluate whether or not it is worth it,” said Boline.

The policy has been so successful Minnesota Department of Health commissioner Edward Ehlinger had to check it out.

"We know it's good for business and it's good for health," said Ehlinger.

Ehlinger is hoping to promote more initiatives of the SHIP.

"Nutrition policies, exercise policies, more health screenings, and all of that is going on in Rochester," said Ehlinger.

Commissioner Ehlinger also made a stop to talk with business leaders about workplace health, something Olmsted County has been working on with their worksite wellness program.

"If you have a really healthy employee you're going to have a healthier workplace which will decrease the absenteeism and boost morale," said Baumbach.

The message is simple changes like going tobacco free can have a big impact.

"It definitely caused a change in my behavior," said Boline.

More apartments are even taking the steps to follow in The Villages at Essex Park’s footsteps.

"To know that we can be a leader that other people can use us as an example that's fantastic," said Boline.

The Villages at Essex Park was the first apartment complex to go tobacco free in Olmsted County. Statewide SHIP has helped more than 200 apartment complexes go smoke free.