Unveiling planned for today at New England Health Equity Summit
Just months after the Health of Boston report found that black and Latino residents continued to experience higher levels of chronic disease, mortality, and poorer health outcomes compared to white residents, Boston has embarked on a first-of-its kind campaign to help residents see the connection between their zip code and their health status, Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced today.
Billboards and MBTA station signs went up this week in 15 Boston neighborhoods featuring each neighborhood’s zip code and the web address, whatsyourhealthcode.com. When users visit the site, they can travel through a virtual world for a snapshot of the social and environmental factors impacting the health of residents in each Boston neighborhood, and link to a resource page to find out how they can get involved in working to reduce health disparities.
“Geographic location is one of the most significant factors determining an individual’s health,” said Mayor Menino. “This campaign will help Boston residents identify the contributing factors in their own communities and learn more about what they can do to improve their health and the health of their families and neighbors.”
The campaign was developed by the Center for Health Equity and Social Justice, a program of the Boston Public Health Commission, and BPHC’s Communications Office. In addition to the interactive website, billboard, and MBTA ads, there’s a Facebook page and a TV commercial, which begins airing next week.
The campaign will be officially unveiled at 12:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, in the conference center at Exchange Hall on the Fish Pier, during the New England Health Equity Summit.
The Boston health equity campaign has been years in the making, prompted by Mayor Menino’s ongoing commitment to improving the health of communities of color and desire to continue to engage residents in a dialogue on the topic. But its urgency was clear after a series of focus groups revealed that most people believe that health is a personal choice, discounting the impact of a person’s social, economic, and physical environments. Armed with this information, the city decided the healthy equity campaign should focus on getting the public to start thinking differently, namely that the choices people make are often fueled by the options that people have.
“It was important that we give people the facts, to raise their awareness, and then ask them to join us in this cause,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Public Health Commission. “Everyone has a role to play - individuals, organizations, and government - in developing solutions to eliminate disparities.”
Whatsyourhealthcode.com is the place for that involvement to begin. When users land on the site, flying letters descend on the page to spell out the words “Place Matters.” A bird takes flight across text that begins: “What do you think of when you think of your health? Probably not your zip code. But where you live can have a lot to do with how healthy you are.” It goes on to say, “Where people live can affect how well, or even how long they live. And it’s time to start thinking about it. Talking about it. And doing something about it.”
Nashira Baril, director of the Center for Health Equity and Social Justice at the Public Health Commission, said she hopes the campaign will get residents to understand how place matters when it comes to health. “At the end of the day, this campaign is about getting everyone invested in the belief that everyone has the right to a healthy life, no matter where they live,” she said. “Building a healthy Boston takes all of us.”