- Department of Public Health
Media Contact for Department of Public Health announces $14.7M in community health and healthy aging grants
Omar Cabrera, Manager of Ethnic Media and Community Outreach
Boston — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has announced the inaugural awards of the Massachusetts Community Health and Healthy Aging Funds. As part of these awards, DPH, and its implementing partner Health Resources in Action, Inc., will join with 32 organizations and 35 of their community partners across Massachusetts, including non-profit community-based organizations, cities and towns, and regional planning commissions.
“All of these organizations have committed to address the root causes of health inequities by disrupting systemic barriers to health and tackling institutional and structural racism head-on,” said Associate Public Health Commissioner Lindsey Tucker. “These efforts also include working to ensure that our communities are age-friendly by creating healthy community environments for people of all ages. During the pandemic, the need to support such efforts is even more imperative.”
In total, $14.7M in grants will support 32 lead organizations and 35 of their partner organizations implementing strategies, ultimately impacting 163 cities and towns across the state.
“It was an honor to be part of a thoughtful process and a team of statewide experts and committed community stakeholders to ensure we dedicated these resources to organizations rooted in communities that have historically been impacted by systemic racism and health inequities,” said Al Vega, Director of Policy and Programs at MassCOSH. “If we really want to lessen the impact of public health disparities on communities of color throughout our Commonwealth, we must look to those communities for genuine inclusive solutions and examine all our work through a racial equity lens.”
The goal of the funds is to work with community partners to increase awareness and address the impact of structural racism on population health and to create long-term, meaningful changes in population health outcomes, including mental health and chronic disease.
There are three core areas of focus:
- those working on long-lasting, community-driven policy, systems, and environmental changes that will make it easier to lead healthy lives and reduce health inequities;
- those organizing and coordinating Community Health Improvement Planning efforts to collectively set and address community health goals, and;
- those working to address policies and systems that increase opportunities for healthy aging.
The investments will support a wide range of activities. For example, the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired will work with gateway cities to align with Age-Friendly processes to address structural and institutional barriers to accessing health care services. Key priorities include developing accessibility best practices; analyzing and improving accessibility of materials and websites and including individuals with low vision in planning and program design.
In Springfield, members of Men of Color Health Awareness will form affinity groups to focus on specific policy, systems, and environmental change issues to disrupt systemic structural racism. The New Bedford Health Department will work with community members and others on a Community Health Improvement Planning (CHIP) effort to focus on structural and institutional barriers to health through a health equity assessment.
“A coordinated approach that invests in community leadership and strengthens efforts to transform systems and practices that perpetuate structural racism is vital to achieving health equity,” says Nineequa Blanding, Vice President and Director of the Funds at Health Resources in Action. “We are thrilled to partner with so many colleague organizations and we are energized by their commitment and vision for meaningful change.”
The awardees shared their vision for the impact these investments to further existing efforts to support Massachusetts communities:
New Bedford Health Dept: “As a culturally diverse city, we hope our project can be used as a template for others who [want] to more equitably serve their communities using evidence-based practices.”
MOCHA: “Our hope is that community members, people truly affected daily by structural and systemic racism will have an opportunity to have their voices heard and know that there is power in mobilizing as a community.”
MABVI: “The long-term goal of this project is that Massachusetts’ Age-Friendly initiatives will embrace equitable information access and inclusion of low vision older adults as a core design principle.”
Organizations span rural areas within Massachusetts, and grantees hail from Western, Central, MetroWest, Northeast, and Southeast Massachusetts. A full list of the awardees can be found here.
The Massachusetts Community Health and Healthy Aging Fund was created in January 2017 when DPH completed a landmark revision of its Determination of Need (DoN) regulation, which authorized creation of these Funds. DPH provides overall guidance to the Funds and Health Resources in Action, Inc. acts as a fiduciary and implementing partner. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs partners with DPH to support the Healthy Aging Fund. Learn more at https://mahealthfunds.org/.