The Healthy Chelsea initiative's goals is to increase access to healthy and affordable foods, to increase physical activity, and to reduce hunger in Chelsea.
The MGH Center for Community Health Improvement conducted a community health assessment in Chelsea in 2009 using primary and secondary data collection, including surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Consistently, obesity prevention and the promotion of healthy living were identified as leading health priorities for the City of Chelsea. One community health indicator shows that 55% of Chelsea middle school children are overweight or obese.
In response, Healthy Chelsea convened a team of community leaders and residents representing a wide range of groups and interests such as schools, city planning and development, the Board of Health, City Council, and community-based organizations. The first objective is to assess the social and environmental factors influencing Chelsea’s high obesity prevalence. Ultimately, the coalition will identify priority areas for action and launch initiatives to promote healthy eating and physical activity across the community. In 2010 Chelsea was one of 40 communities across the country awarded ACHIEVE (Action Communities for Health Innovation and Environmental Change) funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change conditions in the community and reduce obesity. This three-year funding award has helped to catalyze the Coalition’s progress.
Current priorities include: adding physical activity into the classroom time-on-learning at the Elementary level; increasing the volume of healthy foods that are selected and consumed by students during School Lunch; a close partnership with the City’s Planning and Development Department to support infrastructure changes such as park renovations, park installations, traffic calming measures, and road, sidewalk, and intersection redesigns; collaborating with the Board of Health on the passage and implementation of Chelsea’s trans fat free regulation.
Healthy Chelsea includes 56 individuals representing local government, state government, community organizations, healthcare providers, and businesses. The coalition explores behaviors around food preferences, purchasing patterns, and food preparation and consumption. In addition, the group explores the built environment and patterns around physical activity, including means of getting to and from work and school, before and after school time, weekend time, safety and other concerns surrounding outdoor play, and culturally acceptable forms of physical activity. With Chelsea’s diverse community comprising large immigrant and refugee groups, research and planning will be responsive to cultural values and differences.
Healthy Chelsea worked in close partnership with the Chelsea Board of Health providing consultation and staff support to the Board in its efforts to pass a trans fat -free ban for prepared foods served at food service establishments in Chelsea.
What makes Chelsea’s trans fat ban considered first-in-the-nation is the unique step taken by the city’s Board of Health. Through careful consideration, Board’s regulation prohibits the use of any partially hydrogenated ingredients. This means that food service establishments will be truly "trans fat free". The fat-free regulation is effective immediately for new food establishments licensed on or after 1/1/2012. Enforcement begins 1/1/2013 for existing food service establishments.
Since 2007, nearly 20 communities in the United States have passed trans fat bans, including, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Needham, and Lynn. These communities opted to follow a 2006 FDA regulation that defines foods as "trans fat free" if they contain 0.5 or fewer grams of artificial trans fats per serving.
In 2011, Healthy Chelsea partnered with Chelsea Schools Superintendent, Mary Bourque, Ph.D., to create and launch the first components of a comprehensive plan to support healthy eating and physical activity throughout Chelsea Public Schools. Toward this end, Healthy Chelsea received a $10,000 grant from Olivia's Organics Charitable Foundation. The grant is supporting efforts to boost students’ daily physical activity by 30 minutes. Also in 2011, Healthy Chelsea worked closely with the Board of Health to support the passage of a trans fat free regulation. And, the Coalition partnered with the City’s Department of Planning and Development to support infrastructure changes for pedestrian safety, park renovations and installations, and to secure funding from WalkBoston to support the creation of a community walking map.
In 2012, Healthy Chelsea continued its focus in Chelsea Public Schools, with an added emphasis on School Lunch. The Coalition partneed with Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger and Chelsea Food Services to test a range of “Smart Cafeteria” approaches aimed to increase the volume of healthy foods selected and consumed by students. Healthy Chelsea also began working in key neighborhoods, collaborating with corner store owners to expand the availability of healthy, affordable foods in stores close to where people live. Partnerships with the City’s Board of Health and Department and Planning and Development will continue as well.
- 75 individuals representing residents, local government, state government, school administrators and faculty, community organizations, health care providers, and businesses have participated in bimonthly Healthy Chelsea meetings. Subcommittee meetings occur on an as-needed basis.
Healthy Chelsea applied for and received a 2nd year of funding from the Olivia’s Organics Foundation to support physical activity throughout the school day in the Chelsea Public Elementary Schools.
Healthy Chelsea was granted 4 years of funding by the Mass in Motion program and Partners Healthcare to support additional personnel.
Healthy Chelsea was granted a 1-year award by the Trefler Foundation to support a student –run campaign advocating for healthy foods at Chelsea High School.
The results of the 2011 Chelsea Food Stores Survey were analyzed to determine the neighborhoods of highest need. The Program Coordinator has recruited 4 corner stores to the project, with 2-3 more who will likely sign-on. Three Community Partner organizations have agreed to recruit neighborhood residents as focus group participants who will share their needs and wants as customers. Two wholesalers from the New England Produce Center have also signed-on as program partners.
A half-time employee was added to the payroll to provide ongoing education about artificial trans fats and technical assistance to restaurant and bakery owners who need to makes changes in their products in order to comply with Chelsea’s new regulation. Healthy Chelsea worked in close partnership with the Chelsea Board of Health, providing consultation and staff support to the Board. Healthy Chelsea secured legal technical assistance from the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards in order to confirm implementation and enforcement plans. Healthy Chelsea partnered closely with Chelsea’s Department of Inspectional Services to identify restaurants and bakeries needing hands-on assistance, and put a reporting system in place as of 1/1/2013.
The Physical Education faculty of all 4 Elementary Schools received 7 hours of training at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. They are now serving as in-house trainers and mentors to the classroom teachers within their schools. All 4 schools are implementing daily physical activity breaks within the classrooms, and are working towards a goal to achieve 30 minutes of classroom-based physical activity per day in at least 75% of classrooms by January 2014.
A survey of 455 High School students was completed in June 2012. Results were analyzed and a formal presentation for School Administrators was scheduled for early October 2012. A group of 10 students ranging from 8th grade through 11th grade who are participants in the Chelsea REACH Program are meeting weekly with the Healthy Chelsea Schools Coordinator throughout the 2012-2013 School Year to enhance their own nutrition knowledge, evaluate menu changes that are being implemented, and conduct outreach to the student body.
Community and legislative leaders heard directly from young people about the importance of healthy living as part of an effort to address the epidemic of childhood obesity at an educational forum at the Massachusetts State House this morning.
When Fox 25 visited Chelsea recently for one of its Zip Trips to Healthy Communities, anchor Gene Lavanchy interviewed Dr. Dean Xerras of MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center and Melissa Dimond of Community Health Improvement at MGH Chelsea. Dr. Xerras and Melissa described the goal of the Healthy Chelsea coalition and its recent accomplishments.