Mayor Menino Announces Major Public Health Initiative
City awarded $12.5 million in US grants to reduce obesity and tobacco
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For Immediate Release
March 19, 2010
Released By:
Mayor's Office
For More Information Contact:
Mayor's Press Office
Press.Office@cityofboston.gov

Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced that Boston has received $12.5 million in federal grants for a sweeping new chronic disease prevention effort to decrease smoking and reduce obesity, calling the funding ``a significant down payment on making Boston the healthiest city in America.’’

“We have set a goal in Boston of reducing obesity rates in children by 30 percent, and by 20 percent in adults in the next five years, with a specific focus on reducing the gap in the rates among blacks, Latinos, and whites,’’ Mayor Menino said. “This funding will help us move closer to that goal and aid our citywide effort to reduce tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.’’

Mayor Menino unveiled the initiative at the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute at Northeastern University, where he was joined by a host of civic, community and health care leaders and advocates, and students and staff from the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers.

The $12.5 million in grants provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will power aggressive, high-impact public health interventions, fund 50 jobs in Boston, and provide summer employment for at least 50 city youths over its two-year period.

Boston is one of 44 communities awarded stimulus funding for ``Communities Putting Prevention to Work,’’ a national initiative to address two leading causes of premature death and disability – obesity and tobacco use. US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced that the agency had awarded a total of $372 million in prevention grants nationwide, with Boston’s two grants - $ 6.4 million for obesity prevention and $6.1 million for reducing tobacco exposure - the only ones awarded in Massachusetts.

``The point of this work is to increase our structural capacity and change attitudes in ways that afford all Boston residents the opportunity to live healthy lives – whether that’s drinking less soda, biking or walking to work or school, or living in a smoke-free residence,’’ said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, the agency that was awarded the grants. ``The fact that we received not one, but two of these competitive grants speaks to all of the good work we’re doing in Boston; the federal government essentially wants us to fast track and expand that work.’’

Data analyzed by the Boston Public Health Commission show that 32 percent of black adults and 30 percent of Latino adults in Boston were obese in 2008, compared to 17 percent of white adults.  In 2005, for example, 26 percent of black adults, 22 percent of Latino adults, and 14 percent of white adults in Boston were considered obese.

 Boston Public Health data on tobacco show a concentration of tobacco dealers in low-income minority neighborhoods, namely Dorchester, Roxbury and East Boston.

The $6.4 million obesity prevention grant will be used to:

  • Decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages through counter-advertising and policy change
  • Increase active transit through bike share programs and land-use policies
  • Improve neighborhood-based food production and distribution through environmental changes that create additional space for community and backyard gardening
  • Enhance the integration of high-quality and frequent physical activity and education into the school day

The $6.1 million tobacco reduction grant will be used to:

  • Change attitudes toward smoking to reduce demand
  • Enact regulatory and other policy changes that limit tobacco access, influence price, and increase the number of smoke-free environments
  • Increase structural capacity to connect Boston residents to tailored tobacco-cessation services
  • Create 1,000 smoke-free residences in Boston

The city’s progress will be monitored by a high-level leadership team, headed by Mayor Menino and consisting of representatives from the public and private sector, whose institutions will likely play a critical role in the implementation of policy changes. The 20-member leadership team includes Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson; Dr. Gary Gottlieb, CEO of Partners Healthcare; Joseph E.  Aoun, president of Northeastern University; Carol Fulp, vice president of community relations at John Hancock Financial Services; Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health; Dr. Paula Johnson, chair of the Boston Public Health Commission’s Board of Health; and John Palmieri, who heads the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

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