Massachusetts Awards Grants to Address Preventable Health Conditions

The money will focus on hypertension, pediatric asthma, and elder falls in Roxbury and North Dorchester.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has awarded the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) almost $250,000 through the state’s “Prevention Wellness Trust Fund” with the goal of reducing health care costs through prevention and improved chronic disease care. Boston is one of nine award recipients in the Commonwealth.

“We are deeply honored to receive this award, which gives us a unique opportunity to work with an accomplished group of committed partners to reduce major health inequities that affect our neighborhoods,” said BPHC Executive Director Barbara Ferrer in a statement. “Our team is organized to help residents overcome the economic, cultural, and linguistic barriers that have historically limited their access to clinical and community-based services.”

In Roxbury and North Dorchester, residents are burdened by some of the state’s most substantial health inequities, according to a representatives in the Mayor’s office. BPHC will team up with community health centers, Boston Public Schools, child care facilities, and the city’s Commission on Elderly Affairs, to collaborate on a project to address hypertension, pediatric asthma, and elder falls in those neighborhoods. 

“This grant will allow us to focus on the neighborhoods where our residents are most impacted by health inequities, and leverage our network of community health centers to provide better access and proactive care,” Mayor Walsh said in a statement. “At the same time, we’re looking ahead to establishing best practices that can be expanded to every neighborhood in the city of Boston.”

The rate of pediatric asthma emergency department visits and hospitalizations in Roxbury and North Dorchester (the project area) is substantially higher than city- and state-wide rates, according to the Mayor’s office. And obesity rates in those neighborhoods are greater than all of Boston as a whole. Residents there are also 30 percent more likely to suffer from hypertension. It’s easy to see why these neighborhoods will be the first to see the funding.

The prevalence of smoking in the project area, which contributes to asthma and hypertension, is also higher in these neighborhoods than in the entirety of Boston overall. The project area is also home to more than 12,000 seniors, an age group that accounted for 84 percent of fall-related deaths in Massachusetts in 2010.  To strengthen fall prevention efforts, providers will identify at-risk seniors through an assessment process and connect them to balance and mobility programs as well as offer services to improve safety in their homes.

The pediatric asthma work will focus on improving care for high risk patients by providing smoking cessation tools and by integrating asthma management across clinical, day care, school, and home settings. “As a lifelong asthmatic I know firsthand the importance of what this grant will allow us to accomplish,” said Felix Arroyo, Chief of Health and Human Services for the City of Boston in a statement. “Not only will we be able to reduce health care costs, we’ll be working towards chronic disease prevention and improving chronic disease care.”

The $250,000 grant is just the beginning. The BPHC and its partners will receive an additional $900,000 to $1.5 million in each of the next three years after demonstrating readiness to implement interventions in community and clinical settings.