Looking Back on the Pandemic
In 1918, my great grandfather and two of my great uncles died in the prime of their lives, as so many did from the Spanish Influenza. They died in the second wave, which came in the late summer, early fall. The loss of these men changed the trajectory of my family and my grandfather's life, as he was catapulted to be the “man of the family.” He put aside his dream of going to college and joined the Iron Workers Union, building the Orange Line of the MBTA.

I have reflected back on that drastic change of his dream and trajectory many times in my life. Now I think about the families who have lost loved ones, in their prime, to COVID-19—how are their trajectories being altered? How do we learn from the past and create policies and social norms to protect from these tragic human losses that play out over generations? 

We share with you a brief look back at what Massachusetts has been experiencing since February 2020 – the milestones, policy actions, missed opportunities, transformations, and continued challenges. As we have in each e-newsletter, we encourage you to continue practicing the prevention methods so that we do not experience a second wave and might steer away from the potential loss of life, unnecessary loss, if we each do our part.

Jessica Collins
For a detailed list of the milestones, please check out our website
Advocacy and Education
PHIWM Calls for HIA to Inform Decision about Closing Holyoke Medical Center Birthing Center
How do we ensure that our healthcare system thrives financially, while also providing services that reduce health inequities? Holyoke Medical Center wanting to close its award winning Birthing Center is just one example of a larger looming challenge in our state—the need for hospitals to cut services for financial reasons, but risking the ability to provide for the most vulnerable.

PHIWM recommended to the MA Department of Public Health that before any decision like this is made, a Health Impact Assessment should be conducted. Both sides can argue passionately and compellingly, however, what is the true impact of a decision? It must be assessed.

A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a research and public engagement process designed to make predictions about how a policy or practice change would impact health and equity. HIAs engage people across silos in a process of deep discussion, bringing data and evidence into the conversation. Check out our Western MA Casino Health Impact Assessment to learn more about HIA. 

Read more:
A Step in the Right Direction for Maternal Health
Last week, the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed three bipartisan bills to increase birth options and safety for all pregnant and perinatal people in Massachusetts. One bill establishes a commission to study barriers to substance-use treatment for women in the perinatal period, another establishes a commission to address racial inequities in maternal healthcare in Massachusetts, and a third increases options for safe, professional birthing care in the Commonwealth by licensing midwifery. Read more.
One People, One House
Nikki Burnett, our Board Member and Executive Director of Educare, wrote an article as part of The Republican’s One People, One House community dialogue series sharing perspectives on the issues of racism and policing featured. She talks about her commitment to advancing racial equity and how others can show up. She says, "We are advised to stretch before jogging or running a race to warm up our muscles and increase flexibility. Without stretching there is weakness and inability to extend all the way. We are in times where humanity is running the race FOR its life. It is incumbent upon all of us to get in the starting block and commit to the finish line". She quotes our PHIWM colleague Samantha Hamilton, "When everybody stretches, we all grow". Read the article on MassLive.
LiveWell Springfield Age Friendly Coalition
Social Isolation Packages Sent to Older Adults
During this pandemic, there is a significant struggle for individuals and families to see loved ones. It is especially challenging for high-risk folks like older adults and individuals with chronic health issues. Long weeks and months at home, often alone, can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even before the pandemic nearly 1 in 5 Americans 65 and older were socially isolated, according to AARP Foundation. With the pandemic, even older adults with family and community connections are experiencing isolation and anxiety, especially with senior centers and other activities still closed. 

For this reason, the Live Well Springfield’s Age-Friendly Coalition created social isolation care packages for older adults and families living in Springfield.These care packages are a small reminder to residents that they are not alone during these tough times.The social isolation care packages, filled with community resources, activity books, care essentials, and PPE equipment, are a pilot project of the Age-Friendly Initiative to combat social isolation. Community health workers report positive responses: one patient sent a photo of the game of checkers and said, “Thanks for the games- we’re doing something different!” Another resident from the Springfield Elder Affairs said, "That bag was awesome". There was something in there for everybody--It contained stuff for everyone in the family.

With support from our funders, Tufts Health Plan Foundation and Trinity Health, Live Well Springfield’s Age Friendly Initiative and Go Fresh Mobile Farmer’s Market, were able to pivot our programming to purchase and distribute these care items along with the fresh produce boxes as part of the Go Fresh Emergency Food Distribution. UMass Extension provided bags and resources, Greater Springfield Senior Services provided information about older adult services, Ener-G-Save provided cooling guards, and Serenity Care PACE provided 1,200 gloves and masks for the kits. Wellspring Cooperative delivered the packages to the Go Fresh site coordinators located at Linden Towers, Independence House, Colonial Estates, Riverview Senior Center and Springfield Department of Elder Affairs, and to our community partners including Baystate Health Geriatrics, Mass Senior Action, and Healthy Homes Asthma Program. Altogether we distributed 300 care packages. 

The Age-Friendly Coalition recognizes that care items are just one of the many ways we can support older adults and families and will continue to advocate for more ways to help residents during this pandemic. For more information about the Age-Friendly Coalition or to become a member, please contact Samantha Hamilton, Live Well Springfield Manager.​
Travel Order Expands to include Rhode Island
Effective August 7, Rhode Island is a high-risk state, along with most of the country. All visitors entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, who do not meet an exemption, are required to:

  • Complete the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival (unless you are visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the Department of Public Health).
  • Quarantine for 14 days OR produce a negative COVID-19 test that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in MA.

Failure to comply may result in a $500 fine per day.

If you plan to travel, check state requirements frequently as the situation is rapidly evolving. Learn more about Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Travel Order.
Safety Guidance for Cleaning & Disinfecting for COVID-19
Asthma may be triggered by cleaning products so it is important to make sure to follow safe cleaning guidance. In addition, calls to US poison centers about cleaner and disinfectant exposures have increased by 20% recently.
 Check out guidance from the Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership, its partners and the CDC

Visit our page for more COVID-19 prevention tips.
Your Census Response Matters
2020 Census- It's Not Too Late
Census data affects funding in your community, your voice in Congress, and your representation in state and local government. Your response and privacy matters.There are three different ways to complete your 2020 census. You can also respond here.
Upcoming Events & Virtual Learning
Learn and engage from the comfort of your home. Check out these upcoming events:
  • Race and Health Equity Tools for Local Governments and Organizations, August 12th 12:30pm: Learn about actions and practices that cities and health organizations are using to dismantle systemic racism and advance racial equity and equitable access to opportunity. This free webinar will introduce you to Racial Equity Impact Assessments, declarations of Racism as a Public Health Emergency, Racial Equity Action Plans, Health & Equity Screens, and other tools cities and organizations are using right now. Register and learn more.
  • Global Experts Discuss Peace, Power, and Prosperity for Women & Girls, September 11th 3:00pm: The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts and Berkshire Community College are hosting a virtual event featuring a conversation with Dr. Kathleen Szegda, Director of Community Research and Evaluation at the Public Health Institute of Western MA, Silke Staab, Research Specialist at UN Women, and Dr. Valerie M. Hudson, Author, Professor, and expert on national security policy and gender. Register and learn more.
Check out these COVID-19 emergency assistance programs in Western MA:
Visit 413Cares.org to see other COVID-19 resources.