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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.
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.
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.
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