Working together to create a City for Health

August 10, 2018


Part of the vision behind the Destination Medical Center initiative is to position Rochester as the “City for Health.”Achieving this vision requires more than treating illness. We need to create everyday opportunities for businesses, schools, neighborhoods and families to live a healthier lifestyle.

We applaud this approach and encourage more creative thinking and collaboration to make that vision a reality in Rochester and all across Minnesota.

This isn’t a brand-new concept for Olmsted County. It’s something we’ve been doing for quite some time now with the help of numerous grants, including the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, an initiative helping to create healthier communities across Minnesota. As a SHIP grantee for nearly a decade, Olmsted County Public Health has been involved in many different partnership efforts supporting better health where people live, work, learn and play. We now look upstream for solutions and focus on some of the challenging social and environmental conditions — like poverty, transportation barriers, access to employment and more — that create additional barriers to be healthy.

Public health staff have partnered with businesses, schools, health care and other sectors to create sustainable community change. A few examples include:

• Working with Rochester Parks and Recreation to link bicycle paths and add signage to trails.

• Adding more farmers markets and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machines for people using assistance programs.

• Creating school gardens to increase access to fruits and vegetables and teach children how to garden.

• Improving healthy food options at small corner stores in Rochester.

• Implementing smoke-free policies at local businesses and apartment complexes.

• Evaluating traffic flow, student pick-up and drop-offs, signage and crosswalk safety around schools and developing improvement plans so kids can walk and bike to school.

• Creating a first-in-the-state Bicycle Playground designed to help children (and adults) learn basic bike safety skills.

With discussions in Rochester now focusing on infrastructure enhancements, we have more opportunities to help shape a healthier future for everyone living, working and visiting this wonderful community. Rochester can help alleviate congestion and make it easier for residents and visitors to be active by providing safe and convenient spaces for people to walk, bike and play.

Now is the time to plan for additional sidewalks that connect to parks, public transportation and schools; roads that include designated and protected bike lanes; and streets that have sidewalks. These changes are investments in a healthier future, and a less expensive one too when it comes to our health care costs.

By making it easier for people to be active now, we reduce future costs associated with chronic diseases that are linked to an inactive lifestyle.

Local public health is a vital partner in this new vision of Rochester, and we will continue to work toward this common goal. This effort, however, is a communitywide commitment involving a variety of government entities collaborating with private-sector partners.

In addition, this vision relies on you, the residents of Rochester and the surrounding area, to help identify priorities, guide the process, and ultimately benefit from more and better options for healthy living. Together, we can create and sustain the efforts to make Rochester America’s City for Health.

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