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Reducing social, economic barriers to health equity in the local community

Special Advertorial Health Section

Brought to you by Brigham and Women’s Hospital | 1/4/2017, 10:25 a.m.
Poverty, past experience with trauma and even proximity to a supermarket can all impede a person’s health. To help our ...
Students participating in the Fit Kitchen program. Photo: Courtesy Stephanie Crawford/All Dorchester Sports

Poverty, past experience with trauma and even lack of proximity to a supermarket can all impede a person’s health. To help our local community overcome these obstacles, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Center for Community Health and Health Equity (CCHHE) recently awarded grants to 14 nonprofits working to improve the health and wellness of children, adults and seniors in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill and Roxbury.

BWH’s 2016 Health Equity Grants Recipients

All Dorchester Sports League

Alternatives for Community and Environment

Baraka Community Wellness

College Bound Dorchester

Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition

MissionSAFE

Mothers for Justice and Equality

Sociedad Latina

Span, Incorporated

St. Stephen’s Youth Programs

The HEART Consortium

Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry

United South End Settlements

Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts

The center will distribute $640,000 annually to grant recipients for the next three years — totaling more than $1.9 million in funding — with individual organizations receiving grants ranging from $20,000 to $100,000. A second round of grant recipients will be selected in 2019.

Although the CCHHE has supported community organizations over the years, this marks the first time it has opened up funding opportunities more broadly through a competitive grant process. A committee comprised of representatives from BWH, the Boston Public Health Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health selected 14 projects from a pool of 86 proposals received.

The 14 organizations cover a wide range of services. They include Mothers for Justice and Equality, located in Roxbury, which helps mothers and young people affected by violence and supports their development as leaders in their communities. The Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition works to make healthy food and fitness opportunities accessible and affordable. Sociedad Latina supports Latino youth from Mission Hill and Roxbury by providing education and workforce development programs.

Despite differing missions, the organizations share a common trait. They all take a holistic approach to health equity, said Wanda McClain, vice president of Community Health and Health Equity at BWH.

“Eighty percent of what makes us healthy can be attributed to factors outside of the health care system, such as whether we live in a safe neighborhood, have access to high-quality education or have access to healthy, affordable foods,” McClain said. “These 14 organizations are working closely with their communities to address the social factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. We see these funds as an opportunity to expand what is often thought as the traditional scope of health care to promote prevention and wellness at the community level.”

One of the organizations, All Dorchester Sports League — which offers youth sports, tutoring and fitness classes — will use the BWH grant to expand its Fit Kitchen program, a weekly free cooking class for children and families. It plans to provide stipends for instructors, including multilingual nutrition experts to support Dorchester’s growing Latino and Vietnamese populations.

Started in the 1990s as nutrition lectures for teenagers, the program has since evolved into interactive cooking demos for families, with a focus on easy, healthy and affordable meals. Now, classes are packed each week and serve as community-building events.

“By the end of the two hours, everyone is hugging, laughing and exchanging phone numbers,” said Candice Gartley, executive director of All Dorchester Sports League. “In addition to learning how to cook healthy foods, they get to know their neighbors. That’s our mission — to bring people together.”

Over the next three years, the CCHHE will also collaborate with the UMass Donahue Institute, which will measure the impact of projects that received funding to inform future efforts on Health Equity.

“We have the opportunity to really make an impact in our community and in a very broad way,” McClain said.