Why a public health approach?
Problem gambling is governed by a complex set of interrelating factors, causes, and determinants ranging from biology and family history to social norms and existing statutes. Research indicates that gambling is interrelated with various health issues and disproportionately impacts individuals with mental health disorders, substance misuse disorders, and communities of color. Historically, community-level experiences of gambling and communities of color are often not the focus of problem gambling services and efforts. Preliminary research indicates that ethnic and racial minorities have higher rates of gambling problems than the adult general population.
Office of Problem Gambling Services (OPGS)
MDPH promotes the health and well-being of MA residents by ensuring access to high-quality healthcare services, and by focusing on prevention, wellness, and health equity for all people. Within MDPH, OPGS leads a public health response to problem gambling, guided by evidence and community voice. OPGS is committed to promoting equity and has conducted series of community engagement activities, including an Annual Stakeholder Listening Session (SLS). The purpose of the SLS (PDF | Doc) is to engage community members within the casino’s host community to inform problem gambling services. Since 2016, OPGS has engaged more than 2,000 community members and has over 40 community partners. This engagement informs the Office’s 26 initiatives.
Equity, Engagement, and Empowerment: A Path Forward to Mitigate Harm
Since 2016, OPGS has implemented a social-ecological method to carry out a public health and nationally leading response to problem gambling. A social-ecological method is a comprehensive approach that is rooted in the principles of public health and incorporates the individual, family, and community to mitigate harms associated with gambling. In contrast to programs, policies, and practices focused only on the individual, this approach actively: (1) engages individuals at different levels of risk, (2) considers the social and environmental context in which individuals live and thrive, and (3) adheres to principles of cultural competence.
Partnership and collaboration
A cornerstone of public health is working in partnership and collaboration. In addition of working in partnership with over 40 community-based organizations, OPGS provides public health expertise to the Mass Gaming Commission and the Mass State Lottery. Past collaborations have included: