Smoke-free public housing cuts secondhand smoke exposure by nearly half

July 21st, 2016

reasons for quitting smoking graph

Smoke-free policies have the potential to provide healthier environments at multifamily, public housing while also motivating residents to smoke less or quit smoking, according to a new study by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives (OSHII).

The eight public housing properties in this study implemented smoke-free policy changes after working with local public health agencies through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).

After the smoke-free policies were implemented, the MDH study found a 46 percent drop in frequent indoor secondhand smoke exposure among non-smokers. In addition, 77 percent of smokers reported reducing the amount that they smoke and 5 percent reported that they had quit. Smokers noted the policy change was as much of a factor in their reduced smoking as wanting to improve their health.

According to Allie Freidrichs, Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Community Health Services Director, “a significant benefit to this work is that the people that are most vulnerable – elderly, children, and people with asthma and other respiratory diseases, are protected from exposure to toxic chemicals contained in secondhand smoke.”

SHIP grantees are working across Minnesota to help implement smoke-free policies at public housing and privately owned properties in their communities to ensure greater access to quality, smoke-free housing.  For Meeker-McLeod-Sibley SHIP, we have worked with over 50 properties locally on smoke free housing since SHIP began in 2009.

Smoke in housing developments can easily pass from one unit to another through walls, doors and shared ventilation systems. In the MDH study, the percentage of residents reporting exposure to secondhand smoke a few times per month decreased from 44 percent to 23.6 percent after the properties went smoke free.

The work by SHIP grantees and their partners puts the state in a strong position to prepare for proposed changes by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would prohibit the use of cigarettes, cigars or pipes in all public housing living units, indoor common areas, administrative offices, and possibly outdoor areas within 25 feet of housing and administrative office buildings. The final rule is expected in the fall of 2016.

HUD estimates that annual cost savings nationally from eliminating smoking in public housing would be $153 million; the bulk of the savings would come from reduced health care costs related to secondhand smoke. In Minnesota, smoking causes more than $2.5 billion in medical costs annually.

For a second component of this evaluation, MDH interviewed local public health staff and property managers and owners of affordable housing properties who have implemented smoke-free housing policies.

Non smokers shs exposure

Factors that led to greater implementation and enforcement success included educating staff and residents on the adverse health effects of second and third-hand smoke (residual nicotine and other toxins left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke), receiving assistance from experts such as local public health staff and technical assistance providers, emphasizing the economic benefits of going smoke free and practicing consistent enforcement policies.

Get more information about the MDH evaluation study here.

To learn more about local work on smoke-free multifamily housing, contact Jean Johnson at (320) 864-1376 or Allie Freidrichs at (507) 766-3531.

Litchfield Is Working to Become Dementia Friendly

July 8th, 2016

ACT litchfield

Families in every city, town, and rural area in Minnesota are feeling the effects of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Relatives, friends, colleagues, and neighbors are touched by the disease, and many want to help.
Litchfield is one of up to 43 action communities throughout the state taking steps to create a dementia friendly culture, which is informed, safe, and respectful of people living with dementia and their families, provides supportive features community-wide, and fosters quality of life for everyone. Every part of Litchfield can take steps to create a dementia friendly community, such as:

  • Businesses that train employees on interacting with customers who have dementia
  • Clinics that promote early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and provide care and support options
  • Faith communities that welcome and engage people living with dementia and their families
  • Residential settings that offer services and activities adapted for memory loss issues


The Alzheimer’s Association estimates there are 91,000 Minnesotans age 65 and older with the disease and thousands more with other dementias. The disease also touches nearly 250,000 family members and friends who are caregivers. In Litchfield, an estimated 137 people over the age of 65 will have dementia, and in the Litchfield Area those numbers expand to 241 people. As a response to this reality, Litchfield is using an evidence-based community toolkit to assess current strengths and gaps in meeting needs related to Alzheimer’s, to identify community goals and ways to respond, and to determine action steps to achieve the goals.
In order to move towards a more dementia friendly community, the Litchfield ACT on Alzheimer’s team is building a team to assess the needs of the community. We are looking for people who would be willing to join the assessment team or people who would be willing to be a participant in our survey’s and interviews.
The Litchfield ACT on Alzheimer’s team will be hosting a community event to kick off the start of our project and community involvement. The event will be a showing of the film “Still Alice” with Sandy Oltz, Julianne Moore’s consultant, giving a short speech before. This event will be held on Friday, July 22 at 6 pm at the Little Theater at the Litchfield High School. This event is free to the community and everyone is welcome to learn more about dementia and Alzheimer’s and what our team is doing to make the Litchfield Area more dementia friendly. You can RSVP to the even by going online to or by calling (320)693-4590. On behalf of the Litchfield ACT on Alzheimer’s team and the Meeker Memorial Hospital, we invite you to come by.
To learn more about this important work and how to get involved, please contact Alexa Deal, MMH Communications Intern at

Meeker and Sibley Communities Receive Grants to Support “Dementia Friendly” Efforts

May 10th, 2016

Act on Alzheimer's LogoTen communities and their lead organizations have been awarded a grant from ACT on Alzheimer’s to closely consider how best to prepare their communities for the impacts of Alzheimer’s and other dementias and to work toward community-wide support of people touched by the disease.

The ten grantees include six rural and four urban communities; rural areas: Arlington (City of Arlington), Ely (Northwoods Partners), Granite Falls (Living at Home Block Nurse Program – Granite Falls), Litchfield (Meeker Memorial Hospital), Pine City (City of Pine City), and Sartell (Opportunity Matters); urban areas: Anoka (Impact Services), Chanhassen (City of Chanhassen), Duluth (The Victory Fund), and West African Community in Brooklyn Center (Holy Trinity Episcopal Church). The new communities join 33 existing communities statewide.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates there are 91,000 Minnesotans age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s and many thousands more with other dementias. The grantees will join community engagement efforts across Minnesota in preparing for the personal, social, and budgetary impacts of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The grant awards are funded through Blue Plus (an HMO affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota), Medica Foundation, Stratis Health’s Building Healthier Communities Award, and Greater Twin Cities United Way and administered through the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging.

Source: ACT on Alzheimer’s 

Don’t wait til Family Health and Fitness Day to be active with your family!

September 28th, 2015

Couple Walking on the Beach with Their Three Daughters and DogWhat is Family Health & Fitness Day USA®?

Family Health & Fitness Day USA is a nationwide health and fitness event for families, always held the last Saturday in September. The purpose of this unique national program — with the participation of localorganizations throughout the U.S.— is to increase good health awareness and promotefamily involvement in physical activity.

But you don’t need to wait for a National Fitness Day to get active with your family!  Here are some easy, fun ideas to keep your family healthy and entertained!


Compete in an Obstacle Course:

On your mark, get set, go! Obstacle courses are pure fun and can easily be set up in your backyard or your local park using items found around the home. You can use just about anything to create a fun obstacle course in the yard: hula-hoops, tires, ladders, pool noodles, string, rope, buckets, cones, boards…. you name it! Who says physical activity has to feel like a chore?

Visit an Indoor Rock Climbing Gym:

Kids are always jumping on furniture and climbing trees, so why not put that energy into a family-fun activity? Rock climbing will teach kids concentration skills, build confidence and give your family a great workout!

Go Apple Picking:

Visit the apple orchard for a perfect fall day family outing. Apple picking may not seem like a typical workout, but you’d be surprised how many steps you take while walking around an orchard. Plus, it’s surprisingly strenuous, especially for little arms and legs. And even better – the health benefits continue after you go home! Fresh picked apples make a great snack and there’s tons of healthy treats you and your little ones can make together.

Play a Game:

Instead of sitting home and watching football, go outside and play your own! Get all the family together and organize a touch football game. This is a really fun way to fight the lazy weekend slump and get in some physical activity too!

Organize an Outdoor Scavenger Hunt:

Every child (even adults) love the thrill of finding hidden treasures, and what better way to get the family moving than with a scavenger hunt! Turn the activity into an educational experience by hosting it at a zoo or local nature park. Compose a list of challenges, such as finding an oak leaf, split your family into teams, then head off and see who can complete the most tasks. That’s family fitness at its finest!

Get Lost in a Corn Maze:

Another great family fitness activity is navigation your ways through a corn maze! What could be more fun than getting lost in the middle of a cornfield and working together, as a family, to find your way out? With a little problem solving, you’ll walk across the finish line with a sense of accomplishment—and walk quite a few miles in the process.

Ride a Bicycle:

There’s a special bond between kids and bicycles that can never be broken. Bicycles represent fun, freedom, and fresh air — everything that’s good about being a kid. Spend the day biking around town or head to the nearest bike path. It’s a fun and healthy activity that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Pumpkin Picking:

Take a trip to the pumpkin patch and enjoy a day of family fitness and fun! With petting zoos, playgrounds, bounce houses and other activities, there is something for every member of the family to enjoy. When you’re done petting farm animals, hitch a hayride to the pumpkin patch, or better yet walk, and have fun hunting for the perfect pumpkin to carve. While it may seem like all fun and games, there’s actually quite a bit of heavy lifting involved.

Play Laser Tag:

We all know how much kids love playing video games, but what if they could actually participate in real life? One afternoon of laser tag can help exercise both the mind and body, not to mention you and your kids will have a blast. Now that’s what we call a win-win!

Visit a Park:

Weather permitting, hiking and scenic walks in local parks are fantastic and inexpensive ways to exercise with your kids and teach them to appreciate Mother Nature up close and personal. Get outside and get your blood pumping together — you may create some lasting memories as well as a lifelong habit of staying in shape.

See more at:

Celebrate Whole Grains Month!

September 28th, 2015

whole grains monthExcerpt from

Now here’s some good health news: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are heeding the Dietary Guidelines advice to “make at least half your grains whole,” with the majority of Americans eating more whole grains than they did five years ago.

The Boston-based non-profit Oldways Whole Grains Council (WGC) released these findings and others from the 2015 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey in time for September’s Whole Grains Month.

“For years, most people came nowhere close to whole grain recommendations, so it is encouraging to see that many are now benefiting from switching more of the grains they eat to whole grains,” said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies, Oldways Whole Grains Council. “The next step is tempting Americans to expand their whole grain palates beyond bread, cereal and brown rice to delicious grains like spelt, farro, amaranth and teff.”

The push toward whole grains comes as studies show that eating whole grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Other benefits include reduced risk of asthma, healthier blood pressure levels, and better weight control.

For the survey, the Oldways Whole Grains Council asked Americans about their whole grain habits and here’s what they found:

Whole grain consumption is up!
  • Nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent (64%), have increased whole grain consumption “some” or “a lot” in the last 5 years.
  • Whole grain lovers really love their whole grains. In fact, 2 in 3 respondents who nearly always choose whole grains now have increased their whole grain consumption a great deal compared to 5 years ago.
Choosing whole grains more often
  • Almost one-third of respondents (31%) say they nearly always choose whole grains. Five years ago, just 4 percent would have said this.
  • Another 32 percent choose whole grains about half the time.
  • That means 63 percent are making more than half their grains whole, good news since the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, due out this fall, are expected to continue with this recommendation as they have since 2005.
Whole grains are popular morning fuel
  • Breakfast remains the biggest eating occasion for whole grains, followed by dinner and then lunch. On average, 37 percent of daily whole grains are consumed at breakfast, 27 percent at dinner, 22 percent at lunch and just 14 percent as snacks.
  • People eat nearly 30 percent more whole grain breakfast cereal (hot or cold) than refined.
Health messages are getting through
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 (86%) of those who consume whole grains do so for the health benefits.
  • Forty percent (40%) choose whole grains because they enjoy the taste.
  • Cost was named as the leading barrier to eating more whole grains (39%).
  • Availability can also be a barrier (28%) – as many restaurants don’t offer whole grain choices.
Gluten confusion
  • Few fully understand gluten. While more than 1 in 3 identify gluten as a protein and 1 in 5 know it makes dough rise, only 4 percent correctly selected both (and no other options).
  • Twenty-one percent (21%) incorrectly think gluten is in all grains. In fact, gluten-free doesn’t mean grain free – even those following a gluten-free diet can enjoy grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice.
  • 93 percent eat gluten some or all of the time. Of the 7 percent who completely avoid gluten, only 1 in 5 has a medically-diagnosed problem with gluten.

Top 5 Favorite Whole Grain Foods

  1. Whole Wheat Bread (31%)
  1. Oatmeal (27%)
  1. Popcorn (15%)
  1. Whole Grain Cold Cereal (15%)
  1. Whole Grain Pasta (8%)


Whole Grains Month in September is the perfect time to explore lesser known grain options (or old favorites!) and “Share the Goodness” of delicious whole grains in person – and online. To celebrate Whole Grains Month, WGC is launching a “Share the Goodness of Whole Grains” Instagram photo contest, running September 1-30, 2015. To enter, follow the Whole Grains Council on Instagram (@Whole_Grains_Council) then upload your photo with a description telling how you shared your whole grain goodies with others using the hashtag #ShareWholeGrains. In addition, every week throughout the month of September, a random #ShareWholeGrains photo will be chosen and the winners will receive whole grain cookbooks, magazines and more! Start posting in September and your photo may even be regrammed by Cooking Light (@CookingLight)!