Updates from Mass General Community Health During COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As a non-clinician, it is humbling to work at an institution like Massachusetts General Hospital at a time like this. The doctors, nurses, medical assistants and other health care professionals on the front lines of caring for sick patients are the true heroes and heroines. They have our deepest gratitude and utmost respect.

We are also grateful to others at Mass General – and elsewhere – performing heroic duties of a different sort. History demonstrates that at times like these, patients and families from underserved communities face greater challenges—accessing health care, food, shelter, technology and other basic needs. 

The team at the Mass General Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) is hard at work addressing these inequities in partnership with many of you. Yesterday, CCHI senior staff held its bi-weekly video check in. I was awestruck and moved by the commitment of our team. Here are a few examples: 

  • Our Healthy Chelsea Coalition is collaborating to organize the emergency food response for the City of Chelsea, starting with daily distribution of 2,000 boxed meals for school children and their families and scrambling with others to double access to food pantries.

  • Youth programs (jobs and career exposure along with college prep) are conducting a virtual yoga class this week to help the Boston, Chelsea and Revere high school students cope with stress and are also conducting college trivia games using Kahoot. We are working to ensure students have Chromebooks to do schoolwork at home, and their families have food.

  • The nurse director of our Connect to Wellness Program is calling 200 older and disabled residents of the Blackstone, Amy Lowell and Beacon House apartments near the hospital to check in on how they are managing their chronic conditions, accessing food and understanding what they should be doing to protect themselves at this time.

  • Our coalition youth groups (focused on leadership and empowerment) are holding on-line clubs and chats through Zoom, Google Hangouts, Tik Tok and WhatsApp to keep young people connected and engaged. 

  • Community health workers and medical interpreters in Chelsea are reporting to work to help with patients, with some redeployed to other parts of the Chelsea health center where there is urgent need. Others are calling high risk patients from home, including counselors conducting smoking cessation sessions over the phone.

  • The Charlestown Coalition has worked tirelessly to connect those in the recovery community with their AA meetings by helping them host online meetings and coordinating virtual connections with recovery coaches and physicians. 

  • The Kraft Center for Community Health CareZONE van, operated by Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, is still out on the streets caring for the most vulnerable homeless individuals with substance use disorder.

We are inspired by the work of our staff and the community partners they work with.  We will be partnering with Dr. Joseph Betancourt, Vice President for Equity & Inclusion and leader of a Partners-wide COVID Equity and Community Health effort, to address equity and community health issues throughout the institution. We will keep you posted on that effort. 

We feel honored and grateful to be associated with this amazing institution and these wonderful people and all of you. Stay safe and healthy!
Warmest regards,
Joan Quinlan, MPA
Vice President for Community Health
Leslie Aldrich, MPH
Executive Director, MGH CCHI
MGH Community Health