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Sep 18
National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD)


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that people aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of the estimated 1.2 million people living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection in the United States in 2013. Furthermore, older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to find out about their HIV infection late in the course of their disease. In 2014, 40% of people aged 55 and older were diagnosed with AIDS at the time of HIV diagnosis. Older adults are often not tested for HIV because they do not feel they are at risk. However, many older people are sexually active, including those living with HIV and may have many of the same HIV risk factors as younger people.​


Many widowed and divorced people are dating again. They may be less aware of their risks for HIV than younger people, believing HIV is not an issue for their peer group. In addition, women who no longer worry about becoming pregnant may be less likely to use a condom and to practice safer sex. Older people are also less likely than younger people to discuss their sexual habits or drug use with their healthcare providers. Also, healthcare providers may be less likely to ask their older patients about these issues. If older people start experiencing HIV symptoms, such as weight loss, pneumo­nia, fatigue, confusion, and vision, they may mistake them for those of normal aging. Late diagnoses of HIV translate to delays in treatment and possibly more damage to the immune system. This can lead to poorer prognoses and shorter survival after an HIV diagnosis.

Anyone can get HIV. You are at risk to get HIV if you:

  • Have unprotected anal, oral, or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV. The risk can be higher for older women due to age-related vaginal thinning and dryness that can lead to tears in the vaginal area.
    • Talk to your partner about their sexual history and HIV. Before having sex with a new partner, discuss his/her HIV status. You both have a right to know!
    • Protect yourself. Use a latex condom and lubricant when you have sex. Polyurethane and nitrile condoms also protect against HIV and can be used by people with a latex sensitivity.
  • Don't know your HIV status. Many older adults find it awkward to discuss sex with their doctors. However, you should be tested for HIV if:
    • You are having unprotected sex or injecting drugs.
    • You are a man, who has had sex with other men. You should get tested at least once a year!
    • You are a woman, get tested when­ever you have a new sex partner.

It is also important to avoid contact with another per­son's blood, and be sure to never share or reuse needles or 'works." Remember, HIV risk does not diminish with age! Get tested! Protect yourself! To learn more, visit www.bphc.org/HIV.​

Sep 14
BPHC Announces Statewide Collaboration to Connect Massachusetts Residents with Health Services

​The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) announced yesterday that its HelpSteps phone application and website will serve as a statewide database to connect people to available health services, thanks to a new collaboration between BPHC, Boston Children's Hospital and Mass211.

HelpSteps is a web and mobile-based system that currently provides information on 1,700 Boston-based agencies for screening and referring of social determinants of health. With the new collaboration, HelpSteps and Mass211 will cooperate and share data, connecting residents to over 22,000 available services through Massachusetts that support their health and well-being. 

"People need effective tools for navigating a complex maze of services," said BPHC Executive Director, Monica Valdes Lupi, JD, MPH. "We're excited for this new collaboration and look forward to working together to help communities on their journeys to improving their health." 

"HelpSteps' success in connecting thousands of people to social services throughout Boston could not have occurred without the 14-year collaboration between Boston Children's Hospital and the Boston Public Health Commission," said Eric Fleegler, MD, MPH, founder of HelpSteps.com. "This new joint effort with Mass211 is an exciting next step to help families throughout the entire Commonwealth." 

"Mass211 is committed to increasing the capacity of the health and human service delivery system by getting the right people to the right services and by providing information about programs and services that that can support better outcomes for people who use those services," said Mass211 Executive Director Paul Mina. "Our collaboration with Boston Children's Hospital, HelpSteps and Boston Public Health Commission goes a long way to helping all of us to increase the utilization of our data and the services we provide." 

HelpSteps is expected to go statewide in December 2017.​​​

Sep 13
Board of Health Will Announce New Collaboration to Connect Mass. Residents with More Than 20,000 Health Services and Will Hear Updates on Engagement Center Pilot

​Today, the Boston Board of Health will announce a new collaboration that will connect residents with more than 20,000 health services. The board will also hear updates on the City's engagement center pilot.   

General discussion will be led by BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi, JD, MPH, and will include updates on the three commission-wide priorities: treating and preventing opioid use, strengthening partnerships with health care, and advancing health equity. 

There will also be a presentation on the engagement center pilot, a new welcoming environment for individuals in need of a space to spend time during the day, and get connected to the many housing and recovery services offered by the City of Boston and partners in the Newmarket Square area.   

BPHC will be live streaming the meeting on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HealthyBoston/   ​

Sep 11
National Preparedness Month: Plan to Help Your Neighbor and Community

September is National Preparedness Month. You can start doing your part to build a more resilient Boston by sharing this important information on Facebook and Twitter and taking the online pledge to prepare.

What do teachers, nurses, physicians, retirees, students, and other community members all have in common?  They can all be found volunteering with the Boston Medical Reserve Corps (Boston MRC). 

The Boston MRC is a community-based volunteer program managed by the Boston Public Health Commission's Office of Public Health Preparedness that prepares for and may respond to emergencies to support the public health of the City of Boston. Don't let our name fool you, the Boston MRC accepts volunteers from throughout the community, whether you're in the medical field or not. 

Preparing your community can mean a wide variety of activities.  It can range from handing out information on how to build an emergency kit, to helping community members learn about various resources within their community. Throughout each year, the Boston MRC participates in a handful of exciting events, including:

  • Assisting with injured runner tracking at the annual Boston Marathon. Boston MRC members assist with scanning in and tracking injured runners and bystanders along the course and at the finish line.
  • Distributing preparedness materials in their neighborhoods as a part of community outreach
  • Every winter, Boston MRC members support the City's efforts to increase access to the flu vaccine by volunteering at our annual public flu clinic.

The Boston MRC holds special topic courses a few times a year and shares additional learning opportunities via email and social media. Past courses have included:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Management: Boston Disaster Behavioral Health Participants learn the basic philosophy and model for participating in deployments, as well as beginner-level skills to participate in group interventions to reduce the impact of sudden traumatic events.
  • Overdose Prevention Education and Narcan Training – Participants learn the basic identifiers of an overdose and how to assist an overdosing an individual until EMS arrives.​

If you would like to make a difference in your neighborhood and community, consider joining the Boston MRC today! Interested volunteers can find out how to join by visiting our website, http://www.bostonmrc.org

Sep 07
National Preparedness Month: Make a Plan for Yourself, Family, and Friends.

​This September is the annual National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the US Department of Homeland Security. Founded following 9/11, this month is dedicated to increasing the preparedness of all communities throughout the United States. Preparedness is a shared responsibility and it takes the whole community's involvement; Boston isn't prepared unless you are!

This year, as in years past, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is participating in National Preparedness Month. The Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP), a program of the BPHC, utilizes the "Get Ready. Be Safe. Stay Healthy." program to provide relevant, local information for you. These three phrases are important in preparing yourself, your loved ones and your community for emergencies we may face. For the next four weeks during the month of September, we will feature content dedicated to helping you and your loved ones to get ready, be safe, and stay healthy before, during, and after an emergency.

We encourage all Boston residents to take the "Get Ready. Be Safe. Stay Healthy" online course:    Community Preparedness Basics. This convenient online course provides best practices, tips, and resources for community preparedness basics, and engages participants in interactive preparedness activities. To learn more and to take the course visit, http://bit.ly/2bGAvRp

We also invite you to join us throughout the month at events across the City of Boston designed to help you get ready, be safe, and stay healthy during emergencies. Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter at @HealthyBoston for more information on upcoming events and be sure to check Nextdoor for upcoming posts throughout the month of September.

For more information on National Preparedness Month, or the Get Ready. Be Safe. Stay Healthy. program please visit www.readysafehealthy.org

Aug 29
In Memory of Boston EMS Captain Robert Y. Haley

Boston EMS mourns the passing of Captain Robert Y. Haley, 'Sarge', one of the most respected and influential members of the department. Often seen wearing khakis, a bullet-lined belt and polo shirt, Haley had a demeanor that commanded respect. With the middle name of 'York', his nickname dates back to when he was a young boy in South Boston, in honor of Sergeant Alvin York, a decorated World War I hero and Medal of Honor recipient. While Captain Haley proved to be a hero in his own right on April 15, 2013, it is important to pay homage to the many qualities, qualifications and accomplishments that made him such a vital member of Boston EMS and the public safety community.

After 35 years with Boston EMS, Captain Haley retired on July 31st of this year. He started with the department, like all uniformed members, as an Emergency Medical Technician, working out of an ambulance. From there he was promoted to Field Supervisor and later to Captain. Although a recognized leader and person of authority, Captain Haley was most notably, a teacher and mentor. Many remember him from his time with the Boston EMS training academy, serving as an instructor when they were first hired. After leaving this role he would continue providing lectures on various preparedness topics and was even recruited by the US Department of Defense in 1998 to serve as both an instructor and advisor on mass casualty incidents. In 2003, he was a driving force behind the creation of and course material development for the department's DelValle Institute for Emergency Preparedness, which has trained tens of thousands of health care and public safety representatives. He was not only a skilled orator, but also a lifelong learner and an experienced disaster responder, lending credibility and value to the topics he covered.

When Hurricane Andrew struck Florida in 1992, Captain Haley was broadly recognized for his strengths in logistics and disaster response. He served as a member of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team and when large-scale disasters struck, Sarge got a personal call from a representative at the Federal Emergency Management Agency requesting his assistance. Captain Haley later responded to St Thomas in 1995, after Hurricane Marilyn, where, as he would recount, he arrived with no means of transportation and 'appropriated' vehicles from a local rental car lot for his team. All was sorted out later and his uncanny ability to address any logistical challenge thrown at him soon became one of his trademarks. He was called again to New York, after the September 11 attacks, and once more when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, leading emergency management logistics for the entire state of Mississippi. Drawing from his national and international disaster response experience, he would apply lessons learned from what he experienced to build preparedness in Boston.

Most knew Captain Haley for his role as the Boston EMS Special Operations lead, a division he created, in the mid-90's, as a proactive measure to mitigate the rising need for EMS at special events, preserving coverage for the City's neighborhoods. Just as Captain Haley worked to mitigate the resource demands planned (and unplanned) events placed on the department, he also made every effort to minimize their financial impact. He had an incredible talent for securing grant funding for resources necessary to improve disaster readiness and mass medical care capabilities. Over the years, his Special Operations division evolved into not just a special event unit, but also an emergency preparedness and disaster response resource for the department and City. After each event or disaster, whether it was the 2004 Democratic National Convention, evacuation of a long term care facility, a Rolling Rally, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, Captain Haley took note and made necessary adjustments to his plan of operations. He was a ready asset for any emergency and frequently called upon by local, state and federal representatives for guidance.

When the Boston Bombings occurred in 2013, Captain Haley had spent years shaping disaster preparedness at Boston EMS and for the Boston Marathon. As a member of the organizing and medical committees, he influenced much of the logistics and medical planning. He was always thinking about the possibility of an incident occurring during the race and guided the BAA towards implementing mass casualty incident protocols as part of standard operations.  He had resources on hand for just such an event and a team working alongside him ready to respond.

That said, it was his daily commitment to the community and the department that defined his career at Boston EMS. Over the years, he received numerous department citations and awards, including the Stephen M. Lawlor Award for Collaborative Practice (received twice), the Henry L. Shattuck Public Service Award and the Revere Award for excellence and leadership in public health. He worked seven days a week throughout the summers and coordinated the medical logistics for over 500 events a year. His attention to detail made him an expert in logistics and, with his big-picture forward-thinking perspective, he was an authority on disaster preparedness.

Although Boston EMS will be forever thankful for the legacy Captain Robert Haley has left, we owe the biggest debt of gratitude to his family, his greatest love, who shared him with us over the last 35 years. 

Aug 29
It’s Bedbug Season!

​September 1st marks the start to a lot of changes. Summer is coming to an end too soon, fall is about to begin, and Halloween and Thanksgiving are right around the corner. It's also the day many Bostonians move to new homes and apartments, ready to make their new space their own.

With moving, however, comes the risk for some unwanted houseguests – bedbugs. Bedbugs are small, reddish-brown, wingless insects. They hide in fabric and upholstery, such as mattresses, furniture, and luggage, as well as behind loose wallpaper and in cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings. Bedbugs can easily spread between apartments and rooms, can live in vacant apartments, and can travel into your home on furniture, luggage, or clothing. At night, they feed on people and leave behind itchy, red bites. Bedbugs are not caused by poor housekeeping, and they do not live on people's bodies like lice do, but they provide a lot of annoyance and discomfort.

Here's what you can do if you think you have bedbugs:

  1. Wash bites with antibacterial soap and don't scratch!
  2. Check your furniture for bedbugs. Pay attention to the seams of your mattress and couch, your rug, and any cracks or gaps in your floor, since bedbugs like to hide there.
  3. If you own your home, contact a licensed, experienced terminator. If you rent your home, contact your landlord.
  4. Contact Boston's Inspectional Services Department at 617-635-5300 and an inspector will visit your home and conduct an inspection.
  5. Listen to the instructions given to you by your exterminator and landlord.
  6. Wash all sheets, towels, clothing, and other fabrics in hot water and dry them on high heat to kill bedbug eggs. Store clean sheets, towels, clothing, etc. in new plastic bags until your exterminator says it's safe to remove them.

Bedbug extermination is a lot of work, but it's very important that it be done correctly. That's why it's important to hire a licensed and experienced exterminator and to follow all instructions, as outlined in the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan.

Here's three ways you can avoid bedbugs:

  1. Contact Boston's Inspectional Services Department for a pre-rental inspection of your new apartment.
  2. Never bring in furniture, mattresses, or luggage from the curb. This is the most common way people bring bedbugs into their homes.
  3. Seal cracks in floors, walls, and ceilings.

For more information, please contact the Environmental & Occupational Health Office at 617-534-5965.

Aug 28
National Immunization Month: Vaccines for Preteens & Teens

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we will highlight the importance of vaccinations in people of all ages.  This week's blog focuses on the importance of vaccines for preteens and teens.  ​

Preteens and teens are at risk for diseases and need the protection of vaccines to keep them healthy. At this age, preteens and teens will need boosters for childhood vaccines to make sure they retain protection against diseases. It is also recommended that they get vaccines for other diseases starting at this age. One of the vaccines that is recommended for preteens starting at age 11 is the HPV vaccine. 

What is HPV?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 150 related viruses. The most serious strains of HPV can cause genital warts, cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers. HPV is very common. According to the CDC around 1 in 4 Americans are currently infected with HPV, and around 14 million people contract HPV every year.

What does the HPV vaccine protect against?

The vaccine can protect men and women from getting the most serious strains of HPV.  The vaccines are recommended for 11-26 year olds.

  • For women: the vaccine is recommended for 11 or 12 year-old girls but can also be given to women through age 26 who did not get any or all of the doses when they were younger.
  • For men: The vaccine is recommended for boys aged 11 or 12 years but can also be given to men through age 21 who did not get any or all doses when they were younger. The vaccine is also recommended for men through the age of 26 who have sex with men or have a compromised immune system.

If the HPV vaccine is given to 11-14 year olds, 2 doses of vaccine at least 6 months apart are recommended. However, if adolescents 14 years or younger have received 2 doses of HPV vaccine less than 5 months apart, they will need to get a third dose. For teens and young adults who start the series later at ages 15-26, they will need 3 doses of HPV vaccine. Three doses are also recommended for people with weakened immune systems ages 11-26 years.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes, the vaccine is safe and is very effective at preventing HPV related cancers. To learn more, visit https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccinesafety.html.  

Keep your teen healthy by keeping them up-to-date on their vaccinations! #NationalImmunizationAwarenessMonth


Aug 28
Vacunas para Preadolescentes y Adolescentes

Agosto es el Mes Nacional de Concientización sobre la Inmunización. Durante este mes, vamos a destacar la importancia de las vacunas en personas de todas las edades. El blog de esta semana se centra en la importancia de las vacunas para preadolescentes y adolescentes.

Los preadolescentes y adolescentes están en riesgo de enfermedades y necesitan la protección de las vacunas para mantenerse saludables. Las vacunas para preadolescentes y adolescentes son importantes porque cuando uno crece, a veces la protección adquirida de vacunas infantiles comienza a no tener efecto y por lo tanto se necesita una vacuna de refuerzo. También se recomienda obtener vacunas para otras enfermedades a partir de esta edad. Una de las vacunas que se recomienda para preadolescentes a partir de los 11 años es la vacuna contra el VPH.

¿Qué es el VPH?

El virus del papiloma humano (VPH) es un grupo de más de 150 virus relacionados. Las cepas más graves del VPH pueden causar verrugas genitales, cáncer cervical y otros tipos de cáncer relacionados con el VPH. El VPH es muy común. Según el CDC, alrededor de 1 de cada 4 estadounidenses están actualmente infectados con el VPH, y alrededor de 14 millones de personas contraen VPH cada año.

¿Para qué protege la vacuna contra el VPH?

La vacuna puede proteger a los hombres y a las mujeres contra las cepas más graves del VPH. Las vacunas se recomiendan para jóvenes entre las edades de 11-26.

  • Para las mujeres: la vacuna se recomienda para niñas de 11 o 12 años, pero también se puede administrar a mujeres de hasta 26 años que no recibieron ninguna o todas las dosis cuando eran más jóvenes.
  • Para los hombres: La vacuna se recomienda para niños de 11 o 12 años, pero también se puede administrar a hombres hasta los 21 años que no recibieron ninguna o todas las dosis cuando eran más jóvenes. La vacuna también se recomienda para los hombres de hasta 26 años que tienen sexo con hombres o tienen un sistema inmune comprometido.

 Si se administra la vacuna contra el VPH entre las edades de 11 a 14 años, se recomiendan dos dosis de vacuna con un intervalo de al menos 6 meses. Sin embargo, si los adolescentes de 14 años o menos han recibido 2 dosis de vacuna contra el VPH con menos de 5 meses de diferencia, necesitarán una tercera dosis. Para los adolescentes y los adultos jóvenes que comienzan la serie entre las edades de 15-26, necesitarán 3 dosis de la vacuna del VPH. También se recomiendan tres dosis para personas con sistemas inmunológicos debilitados de edades entre 11 y 26 años.


¿Es segura la vacuna?

Sí, la vacuna es segura y es muy eficaz para prevenir los cánceres relacionados con el VPH. Para obtener más información, visite https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccinesafety.html

¡Mantenga a su hijo/a sano/a! ¡Vacúnelos! #NationalImmunizationAwarenessMonth


Aug 15
City and Community Health Centers Increase Food Access for Residents

​The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) announced today that four community health centers have increased food access through Boston REACH:PHH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health: Partners in Health & Housing), a four-year initiative that works to reduce racial and ethnic differences in health among public housing residents. ​

The announcement was made during National Health Center Week, which runs from August 13 to 19 of this year and celebrates health centers as the key to healthier communities. Increasing food access is a priority for health centers, which provide vital health services and promote health and wellness within their communities.

The work to increase access to healthy foods builds on existing efforts and partnerships between BPHC, Boston Housing Authority (BHA), South End Community Health Center, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, Upham's Corner Health Center, and Whittier Street Health Center.

The four community health centers have incorporated Children's HealthWatch validated questions to their workflow to screen for food insecurity. The implementation of these questions has resulted in 28 percent of patients screened being referred to local food resources, more than 565 food insecurity screenings, and over 7,174 food transactions through nonprofit food vendors. 

"We are grateful to work with community health centers on addressing health inequities that result from issues like food insecurity which impact our most vulnerable populations," said BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi, JD, MPH. "Increasing access to healthy food is a citywide priority that requires a comprehensive approach, and the community health centers have had measurable success at combatting food insecurity."

In addition to partnering with nonprofit food vendors Fresh Truck and Fair Foods to increase access to fresh, healthy and affordable food options, other efforts include:

  • Upham's Corner Health Center (UCHC) partnering with BPHC's Violence Intervention & Prevention (VIP) Neighborhood Coalitions to increase awareness about food resources through door knocking.

  • Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center (SJPHC) developing a "How we do it"video in collaboration with South Street Youth Center, which illustrates the challenges families face with accessing healthy and affordable food. They have conducted a number of Cooking Matter classes, and batch classes where families learn how to prepare healthy meals on a budget and leave with an entire week of ready to eat food.

  • Whittier Street Health Center (WSHC) hosting weekly coffee hours in BHA developments to inform residents about available food resources. Their initiative is informed by a youth advisory board consisting of youth from Whittier Street development across the street. 

  • South End Community Health Center (SECHC) providing bilingual recipes and other food resources at their weekly Fresh Truck site to encourage greater fruit and vegetable-based meals and snacks, paired with over 5,261 Fresh Truck coupon vouchers across 17 months.

"Community health centers continue to be the health system's problem-solvers, looking behind patients' medical charts to address the factors that influence their overall health and well-being," said James W. Hunt, Jr., President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. "We are grateful to the Boston Public Health Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their support in tackling food insecurity, an issue that continues to impact many of Boston's diverse communities."    

"There are many non-medical conditions that impact our patients' ability to lead healthy lives, including a lack of affordable, nutritious food," said Karen Van Unen, COO of South End Community Health Center. "The Fresh Truck initiative provides our patients and their families  with critical access to healthy food choices right in their neighborhood." 

In January 2017, BPHC awarded $120,000 in grant funding to the four community health centers that have worked directly with nonprofits to increase food access by scaling up programs near public housing developments, reaching approximately 27,000 public housing residents​.

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Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: info@bphc.org