We are excited to share with you the accomplishments of the three-year Let's Get Healthy, Boston! (LGHB) project and to preview what comes next. LGHB was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2014 - 2017 to address leading risk factors for chronic disease and to improve health outcomes in Boston, particularly for residents with the greatest chronic disease burden. Our project team worked with partners across the City of Boston to increase access to smoke-free housing, healthy food and beverages, and active living opportunities.
With Boston Public Health Commission and Boston Alliance for Community Health (BACH) as the lead partners, we engaged more than 100 community organizations, grassroots coalitions, city agencies, schools, retail stores, landlords, management companies, advocacy groups, universities, and others to plan, lead, inform, educate, train, organize, capacity-build, evaluate, and ultimately change Boston's neighborhoods to become healthier places for all. "Preventing chronic diseases and deaths resulting from unhealthy diets, tobacco use, and physical inactivity is a shared priority for BPHC and BACH. Diseases attributable to these behaviors are some of the leading causes of premature death and rising health care costs, and it is our responsibility to change these behaviors and reverse those trends by working to make Boston a healthier and more equitable place to live, play, and work." - BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi, JD, MPH
So, how did we do?
Smoke-Free Housing (SFH) "Going smoke-free with our housing portfolio was the right choice for Codman Square NDC. Not only did it help address the health needs of children and older adults dealing with asthma and other airborne ailments, but it also complemented other green measures used in our buildings that contribute to a better quality of life for residents and a healthier housing community." - Marcos Beleche, Assistant Director, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation
- 21,000 additional rental housing units are now smoke-free, reaching residents in both market rate and affordable housing developments.
- All 17 Boston Community Development Corporations are now smoke-free. These agencies received 85,000 pieces of SFH educational material, door decals, etc. to share with their residents.
- Community partners began a dialogue with the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development about strategies to incentivize new housing developments to begin as smoke-free.
- The "Go Smoke-Free" media campaign, launched in collaboration with REACH Partners in Health and Housing, reached landlords and management companies about the benefits of going smoke free, with messages from landlords who made the transition. The campaign had an estimated 11.9 million "impressions" (potential views) on billboards across the city.
Healthy Food and Beverages
"Making it easier for people to make healthy choices is crucial to achieving health equity in Boston. With 'Farm Fresh Boston,' we hope to make people aware that there is a wide network of healthy and affordable food resources that can protect us from poor health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and hypertension." - BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi
- 31 neighborhood corner stores and 10 Walgreens pharmacies promoted water and other healthy beverages as preferred options through signage and product placement.
- Tropical Foods Supermarket in Dudley Square has installed permanent English-Spanish ReThink Your Drink signage and "green" beverage shelf labels that designate 109 products as healthier beverages.
- 30 nutrition education events at farmers markets and supermarkets engaged more than 2,400 residents.
- 1,000+ residents attended ReThink Your Drink demonstrations about the sugar content and health impact of various beverages at community events.
- More than 400 pharmacists attended continuing education trainings about the negative health impact of sugary drinks and how to talk to pharmacy patients about limiting sugar intake.
- The bi-lingual English-Spanish #FarmFreshBoston public awareness campaign promoted Boston's 25 farmers markets that offer financial incentives to low-income SNAP customers. The campaign had an estimated 22.8 million impressions on billboards, bus ads, newspaper ads and neighborhood way-finding signs.
- A pilot of new digital technology for processing SNAP EBT cards at 10 farmers markets helped facilitate the transition in Boston from Bounty Bucks to the statewide Healthy Incentives Program as the new financial incentive.
Safe Routes to School "The simple act of walking to school offers a myriad of benefits. When students walk or bike to school, they are not only getting more exercise, but they are boosting their energy levels to help them become better learners throughout the school day." - BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang
- A new district-wide Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program to promote walking and biking to school launched in Boston Public Schools (BPS) with program components in 32 elementary schools.
- BPS has integrated a new pedestrian safety module into its K-5 physical education curriculum. Teachers were trained and began offering the curriculum. The curriculum has been institutionalized into PE teacher training.
- BPS created a SRTS communications brand, plan and toolkit to help the district and schools effectively communicate about the benefits of active travel.
- Preferred walking route maps have been developed and shared with families at 28 schools.
- Four semi-annual Walk to School Day events engaged approximately over 5,000 students at 32 schools. The New England Patriots mascot, Mayor Walsh, and many BPS and City of Boston senior leaders participated in the events.
- Boston Transportation and Public Works Departments incorporated SRTS and school sites into its comprehensive safety planning, including Vision Zero, sidewalk repairs and Slow Streets grant criteria.
- The Boston School Committee approved a revised comprehensive Wellness Policy that establishes a District commitment to support and promote safe and physically active transportation to and from school.
- A five-year inter-agency strategic plan has been developed to guide the City in continued SRTS implementation.
Looking ahead, Boston is excited to receive a grant from the Partnership for Healthy Cities
, funded through Bloomberg Philanthropies, to support SRTS for the 2017-18 school year. This new grant will allow us to continue SRTS communications work, support school programs and events, and work with partners on creating a sustainable Boston SRTS initiative.
Stay up to-date on Boston SRTS through our website https://www.bostonpublicschools.org/saferoutes
Bicycling for Active Transportation "As residents, we know we cannot create large-scale change alone. LGHB has empowered and resourced the community to create a change that is impacting the health of youth and families and changing our walking and biking environment for decades to come."- Paul Malkemes- ED of The Boston Project Ministries
- Hubway bike share enrolled 256 low-income subsidized members at 7 neighborhood access points and institutionalized low-income membership across 4 area municipalities as part of its new management contract.
- Boston Project Ministries mobilized residents to lead traffic calming measures and received a Slow Streets grant from Boston Transportation Department.
- Sixteen neighborhood bike safety events and 11 learn-to-ride workshops improved the bicycling skills of more than 240 residents.
- Three neighborhood residents who are women of color are now licensed by the American League of Cyclists as cycling instructors and will utilize a community-based bike library to continue teaching more residents how to bike safely.
- The first annual Boston Neighborhood Bike Forum in Dudley Square brought together more than 100 Boston residents and bicycling activists to connect, share, learn and envision what bicycling could be in Boston neighborhoods. #BikeYourHood
- The Boston Cyclists' Union's "pop-up" stations repaired over 1,500 bikes at farmers markets in 6 neighborhoods without bike shops.
- Boston Transportation Department produced a new resource "Boston by Bike" to help residents interested in biking get started.
- The bi-lingual English-Spanish #IBikeBoston public awareness campaign featured real people from six neighborhoods and why they bike, aimed to influence social norms about bicycling. The campaign had an estimated 15 million impressions on billboards and bus ads.
Healthy Community Champions "The program has given our community the opportunity to work together and look at different ways to increase the overall health of our neighborhood!" - Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition HCC Coordinator Vivian Ortiz
The Healthy Community Champion (HCC) initiative, led by the Boston Alliance for Community Health (BACH), mobilized more than 100 residents as ambassadors and educators in their neighborhoods.
- HCCs were instrumental in the implementation of activities across Let's Get Healthy, Boston! three focus areas and were the voice of the project in Boston neighborhoods.
- 12 community based organizations/coalitions, in 10 neighborhoods, led HCC teams.
- Champions ranged in age from 14-78, spoke 12 languages, and reflected the racial and ethnic diversity of the city of Boston.
- HCCs led outreach to landlords and neighbors on smoke free housing, engagement of corner stores, and coordinated neighborhood active transportation events.
- HCCs interacted with more than 15,000 residents through community events and activities.
Looking ahead, BACH is working to build the HCC initiative into its organizational structure. With funding from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, BACH is developing an "HCC 2.0" model, taking the lessons learned from LGHB! and creating a sustainable program model.
Have you seen the video series highlighting the success and impact of the Healthy Community Champions? Check them out here
In addition to these accomplishments, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Prevention Research Center is completing evaluations of the Safe Routes to Schools and Healthy beverages work. We are excited to have data that supports our accomplishments and plan to share the results in a future newsletter. On behalf of the Let's Get Healthy, Boston! team, thank you for your interest and partnership on this project, and for your commitment to preventing chronic disease in Boston. Though this project has ended, our collective work to continue making Boston a healthier city continues.
Stay in touch! We plan to keep you on our listserv for future work of BPHC's Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Division. If you have specific questions or comments about LGHB, reach us at: ChronicDisease@bphc.org.