Healthy Chelsea works 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 and identified, obesity prevention and the promotion of healthy living as leading health priorities for the city. One community health indicator showed at that time that more than half of Chelsea students were overweight or obese.
In response, Healthy Chelsea convened a team of community leaders to assess the social and environmental factors influencing Chelsea’s high obesity prevalence. 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 at the Elementary level; increasing the volume of healthy foods that are selected and are consumed 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; and collaborating with the Board of Health on the passage and implementation of Chelsea’s artificial trans fat free regulation.
Healthy Chelsea includes 75 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 an artificial trans fat free regulation for prepared foods served at food service establishments in Chelsea.
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, aided by a $10,000 grant from Olivia's Organics Charitable Foundation. 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 partnered 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.
- 75 individuals representing residents, local government, state government, school administrators and faculty, community organizations, health care providers, and businesses participate in the Healthy Chelsea Coalition, approximately 45 of whom attend bimonthly Healthy Chelsea meetings on a regular basis. Subcommittee meetings occur as-needed for time limited projects.
- Healthy Chelsea applied for and received a 3rd year of funding from the Olivia’s Organics Foundation to support the adoption of the Playworks 360 model at the Kelly Elementary School.
- Healthy Chelsea entered its 3rd year of funding (of a 4-year funding commitment) by the Mass in Motion program and Partners Healthcare to support additional personnel; Partners HealthCare committed three additional years of funding beyond the original 4-year commitment; funding has now been secured through February 2019.
- Healthy Chelsea completed its 2nd year of consecutive funding from Trefler Foundation to support a student–run campaign advocating for healthy foods at Chelsea High School, and was asked by the Trefler Foundation to submit a proposal for a 3rd year of funding. The proposal will be reviewed by the Foundation in early FY 2015.
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program implemented in 2 elementary schools serving 1,000 students, 2 days per week, and initiated in a 3rd elementary school.
- Fitness Minutes in 4 Chelsea Elementary Schools and the Early Learning Center serve 3,000 students, increasing their physical activity by nearly 15 minutes a day
- Workplace fitness: Approximately 45 MGH Chelsea Community Health Improvement Team (CHI) staff received Fitbugs to track steps and activity. 12 CHI staff members participated in a fitness and strength training program. 10 of these staff volunteered to serve as health coaches. The health coaches targeted a group of 26 MGH Adult Medicine patients. Results showed that CHI staff increased their regular exercise during the assessment period (comparison of pre-test and 6-month post test). 13 of the 26 patients who were targeted participated in the intervention, either in Cooking Matters, the Walking Program, or both. We found that the health coach approach (matching CHW staff to patients for regular contact) helped patients achieve regular attendance and a strong connection to the program and group.
- The 30 Chelsea High School students participated in the Youth Food Movement internship. YFM advocates for improved nutrition quality and increased student participation in School Lunch. Participants meet afterschool once a week, have lunch with the Healthy Chelsea supervisor once a week, and complete additional projects outside of school as needed. YFM also revitalized a languishing community garden.
- Smoothies and fresh fruit cup added to snack (a-la-carte) line (SY 2013-2014), and Aramark has made a commitment to incorporate them into the reimburseable Lunch in SY 2014-2015; Reduced frequency of tater tot/french fry side vegetables on menu; Increased frequency of red/orange/green side vegetables on menu; fruit juice eliminated from School Lunch; Fresh fruit selection has increased as a result; Baked chicken now served every day at CHS; Aramark has made a commitment to eliminate breaded chicken from CHS School Lunch menu; CHS cafeteria reorganized with build-your-own nacho and burrito bars (September 2014). Aramark was up for a new contract in July 2014. As a result of the bid process (in which Healthy Chelsea staff members participated) a new Food Service Director was hired, and an explicit commitment was made by senior leadership (Regional Director) for Aramark to collaborate closely with Healthy Chelsea staff and Chelsea Public Schools administration to improve nutrition quality above and beyond federal regulations.
- Chelsea Corner Store Connection is a partnership with 3 intervention stores and 3 control stores to increase the variety, quantity, and quality of fresh fruit/vegetables, while making these products more prominent in the store.
- Healthy Chelsea’s full-time School Coordinator continued as co-chair of school district's wellness committee. In this role, she successfully facilitated the initiation of a new contract between Chelsea Public Schools and the U-Mass Extension Nutrition Education Program to provide consistent nutrition education curriculum to all students in grades K – 8.
Board of Health confirmed artificial trans-fat regulation for City of Chelsea, creating a zero tolerance for partially hydrogenated ingredients in Chelsea’s food service establishments.
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.
Phone: 617 877-3559