Three federally assisted housing units operated by the St. Clair County Housing Authority will go smoke-free this summer.
The county is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and local government agencies to turn public housing buildings into smoke-free units during the next several years.
Several public housing units and private apartments and condominium complexes in the Chicago-area already have gone either entirely or partially smoke-free, according to the American Lung Association.
"This is a national trend with HUD," said Jan Douglass, Community Health Program Coordinator with the St. Clair County Health Department. "They really want public housing to go smoke-free. It's about policy change, so it's going to be done in small steps."
The Bel-Plaza I and Bel-Plaza II apartments in Belleville and the Adeline James housing in Centreville will go to smoke-free housing on July 1. All three housing units are homes for senior citizens. Douglass added that all of the assisted living housing centers in St. Clair County are already smoke-free.
"The is being led by HUD in the U.S.," Douglass said. "The part of our grant for this only addressed public housing. It does not touch on the private housing sector at all."
As part of the Tobacco-Free Multi-Unit Housing Initiative, Douglass sent out surveys to those living in some publicly paid housing units in St. Clair County to gauge the response of residents potentially going smoke-free.
"The responses have been very favorable," Douglass said of the surveys.
In response to the question: "Would you like to live in a smoke-free building?" 59 percent of residents responded yes, 13 percent said no and 28 percent didn't care either way.
St. Clair County now ranks an overall 94th in the state, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health study, which was updated in November. But, the county is still ranked 99th out of 102 counties in the physical environment category, meaning it ranks poorly in access of citizens to recreational facilities, access to healthy food and a high percentage of fast-food restaurants.
The goal of the St. Clair County Health Commission, which is working to improve the health of all citizens, is to see a measurable improvement in the health of the 270,000 citizens in the county and become one of he healthiest counties in America by 2020.
The Get Up & Go! Campaign, part of the St. Clair County We Choose Health Initiative, began five years ago in an effort to begin improving the health of the county after a study released in 2010 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked the health of St. Clair County 101st out of 102 counties in the state.
The county, with the collaboration of members of the St. Clair County Health Commission, has been taking action to become healthier. More than 150 organizations and communities are part of the countywide movement for health and wellness.
The campaign has raised more than $1.2 million for local cooperative efforts to improve and sustain active living and healthy eating in schools, businesses, faith communities and neighborhoods.