Youth Health
Enhancing Health with Cross Sector Collaboration and Data 
It’s interesting being in the public health field. Former Commissioner John Auerbach once said that “public health work means functioning in jurisdictions where you have no authority.” I have also heard the public health sector referred to as the “bad news bears” – always highlighting what is wrong or needs to be fixed. I have come to experience that both these sentiments are true. I will add another, public health work means telling the truth, lifting up what is going well, highlighting what needs more attention, and, most importantly, it means building strong teams that can take action on the issues that matter most. In this newsletter, we are focusing on a new report being released about Springfield eighth graders and their health, the factors in their life that protect them, and the factors that put them at risk.

Looking at the broad spectrum of this data, there is so much to be proud of. Young people of today – despite blatant hateful messages in our daily media, the changing environment, and the ubiquitous emphasis on consumerism (and not always of healthful products) –are resilient, clever, and contributing to our society in profound ways. Findings from the 2019 survey show: more than 1 in 4 students (28%) do volunteer work or community service; nearly 9 out of 10 students (86%) are not sexually active; and cigarette and marijuana use are on the decline, with the majority of students abstaining. And there are many areas where young people need more support, attention and resources. 

We encourage you to educate yourselves and your organizations so we are all better poised to make sure all young people have what they need to lead healthy lives. There are two things coming at you in this newsletter: 1) the 2019 Springfield Youth Health Survey report, and 2) an invitation to join us next Friday for a webinar that will dive deeper into the data. Another thing you might consider is to join us on a new initiative.

Last year, the Public Health Institute of Western MA led a planning effort in Springfield called the Community Level Health Project funded by the MA Department of Public Health Office of Problem Gambling. Hundreds of residents and professionals said youth mental health is what needs the most attention right now. This choice by the community aligns with some of the more concerning data you will see in the report. And so, we embark on an effort to build a new team – a coalition of youth, adults and organizations to come together to lift up what is working and where we need to put more effort to ensure young people have what they need to feel balanced, to thrive, and to be in control of themselves and their destiny.

Harkening back to Commissioner Auberach’s words – I encourage you to reflect on your own “jurisdictions and authority” – perhaps you function or lead in realms where youth mental health might be better supported and resourced.  As JFK once said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” We hope you will join us in building a healthier and more equitable future!


Jessica Collins
New Report! 2019 Youth Health Survey of Springfield Eighth Grade Students: Summary of Select Findings
The Public Health Institute of Western MA just released a new report summarizing select findings from the 2019 Springfield Youth Health Survey (YHS). The Springfield YHS provides important insight into the behaviors and perceptions of our youth. It is administered biennially to eighth-grade students enrolled in Springfield Public Schools as part of the broader Springfield Youth Health Survey Initiative. The Initiative is a collaborative effort of the Public Health Institute of Western MA, Gándara Center, Springfield Public Schools, Springfield Department of Health and Human Services, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The 2019 surveys were funded by the Mass Gaming Commission, Springfield Health and Human Services, Baystate Health, and Shriners Hospitals for Children. 

Other data:
Fall Webinar Series
Please join us for our Fall Webinar Series:
  • Friday October 16, 2020 at 12:00pm, Springfield Teen Health: Moving From Data to Action: Join us Friday October 16, 2020 at noon to learn about the Springfield Youth Health Survey Initiative Findings. The Public Health Institute of Western MA and Gándara Center will share findings from the most recent Youth Health Survey and Prevention Needs Assessment Survey conducted among middle and high school students in the Springfield Public Schools. These surveys are conducted through a collaborative effort of the Public Health Institute of Western MA, Gándara Center, Springfield Public Schools, Springfield Department of Health and Human Services, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission which is aimed at collecting data to understand needs and inform decision-making and action. An overview of findings from the surveys will be discussed, along with how these data are being used for collaborative efforts to support the health and well-being of Springfield youthLearn more and register here.
  • Friday November 13, 2020 at 12:00 pm, Sexual Violence towards Girls and Young Women: A Call to Action This webinar will explore findings from Hampden County and include a panel discussion of experts. Stay tuned for more information!
  • Download the recording from our September 18, 2020 webinar, Using the Western MA COVID-19 Data Dashboard
Your Vote Counts!
For the November 3, 2020 general election in Massachusetts, there are multiple ways to cast a vote, but you must be registered to participate. Register to vote by October 24, 2020.

Stay Healthy if you go to the Polls
  • Wear a mask or other face covering.
  • Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from others.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer) before and after voting.
  • If you are sick or concerned that you have been exposed to the coronavirus, contact your medical provider. If you don’t have an absentee ballot, contact your local election office for guidance about your voting options.

Image by Kate DeCiccio for Amplifier Art’s Power to the Polls campaign in 2018
Act Now!
Tens of thousands of families across Massachusetts will be at risk of eviction when our state's eviction moratorium expires on October 17th. This bill will prevent a massive surge of unjust evictions and foreclosures due to COVID-related debt, prevent rent hikes and no-fault evictions as we recover from COVID-19, and help establish a Housing Stability & Recovery Fund to relieve small owners.

Please call/email your legislator about the Guaranteed Housing Stability Act using this link.
COVID-19 has left the Massachusetts state budget in dramatic shortfall. We need our legislators to know that we cannot cut funding for vital services – this would worsen the effects of the economic downturn and impair the state’s recovery. It would also further harm people and communities already disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.  

Come to one of the local community briefings about the “Invest in Our Recovery” campaign:
It’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence affects millions of people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Domestic violence doesn’t just mean physical violence. It can also mean yelling, humiliation, controlling behavior, threats, isolation, and more. If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, you are not alone. There is help available:

News and Events
Enjoy these upcoming virtual events from the comfort of your home:
  • Springfield’s Two Years as a Casino Host: Looking Back and Looking Forward, Wednesday October 14, 2020 at 10:00 am: This webinar is hosted by the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) study, based at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences. It will feature findings from surveys of MGM Springfield employees, casino patrons and Springfield residents. The social and economic impacts of MGM Springfield will be detailed, including the casino’s effects on gambling attitudes and problem gambling. Learn more and register.
  • Springfield Climate Justice Initiative Virtual Community Conversation (Conducted in Spanish), Oct 14 at 6:00pm: Spanish-Speaking Springfield residents will learn about and discuss climate change, health and equity. Residents will help us identify the key policy ideas that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, improve health, and address racism. Participants will receive a $50 giftcard. Register
  • Hampden County Mentoring Summit 2020, Nov 13 at 9:30am: Mentoring Summit is an opportunity for organizations that have mentoring components to establish a space for networking and skill-building. For more information contact, Kim Gilhuly or Melany Mendoza.
Funding Opportunity
Baystate Health is excited to announce that the latest grant round for Better Together Grants is now open! View the final set of guidelines. Letter of intent is due Friday October 23, 2020, and the application is due Friday December 4, 2020.
Your Feedback is Needed
The MA Department of Public Health is conducting a survey to understand the impact of COVID-19 and to help identify where support and resources are needed most. The survey is intended for anyone over the age of 14 living in Massachusetts with emphasis on reaching those populations who may be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, such as people of color and other marginalized populations, such as older adults. Learn more.  
COVID-19 Data
Check out the latest updates to the Western MA COVID-19 County Data Dashboard.