Massachusetts Public Health Association
 
Action for Equity in Health   
 
January 2016
In This Issue:

 

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Happy New Year! 2016 is already in full swing for MPHA. Last week the Globe published an article about MPHA and our partners' growing advocacy for the MA Food Trust. The article generated interest from local radio stations who invited me to speak about the MA Food Trust and healthy food access in MA. This was a great opportunity to let people know how important the MA Food Trust is and how, with just a little investment, neighborhoods throughout the Commonwealth can be revitalized with big returns for the state. Read this month's Spotlight article to learn more about food insecurity in Massachusetts.

While I am, excited for everything MPHA will accomplish in the New Year, I am sad to say goodbye to a valued member of our team. Please join me in thanking Kara Keenan for all that she has done for MPHA and in wishing her well in this next stage of her life. 

MPHA will be hiring a full-time Development Director -- keep a look out for the full job description, which we will be sharing soon. We are looking for a diverse and qualified pool of candidates interested in bringing their passion to MPHA. 

Best wishes,




Rebekah Gewirtz
Executive Director
MPHA Updates
MPHA Thanks Kara Keenan for Her Invaluable Contributions KaraKeenan
MPHA is sad to be losing one of our longest standing employees and someone many of our members, donors, and friends have gotten to know so well over the years.  Kara Keenan left MPHA Jan 1, 2016 to spend more time with her family and to take care of her newborn baby.

Kara has been the leading staff person responsible for the festive and inspiring Spring Awards Breakfast and our key coordinator and leader on the MPHA Annual Meeting. She has also been the lead for our membership program, communicating with both individual and organizational members of MPHA. She has worked over the years to broaden and strengthen our membership program that is now stronger than ever. Kara leaves a legacy of hard work, unflappable determination, and a fun and warm presence at MPHA that will be sorely missed. We know she won't be far and look forward to continuing to see her and getting updates on her baby Julia and her family. Please join us in THANKING Kara Keenan for a decade of service to MPHA and wishing her well in the next chapter of her life
Notes from the Field: MPHA Builds Capacity of Local Leaders across Massachusetts
MPHA's staff meet our partners where they are rooted. Across the state, we build the capacity of local organizations to be powerful advocates at the state and local levels. By working with local leaders and providing timely technical assistance, we can support their work and also better understand local issues and shared priorities. Read on
Second Act FRESH Convening Draws Partners from All Over the State
December 9, 2015 | Boston, MA
On December 9th over thirty-five partners came together in Boston for the second Act FRESH Regional Convening. Partners both new and old came from Fitchburg, Worcester, Lowell, Lawrence, and all parts of Boston to hear updates on current Act FRESH priorities and to learn how they can get involved and take action on areas such as healthy food financing, complete streets, zoning reform, and transportationRead on
Policy Notes
"We Can Do Better Than 48th in the Nation" FoodTrust 
Advocates Increase Efforts for Healthy Food Access
MPHA and our partners have been expanding our efforts in advocating funding for the MA Food Trust Program, which will increase healthy food access and create much needed jobs in neighborhoods throughout the Commonwealth. Thanks to our mounting efforts in pressing Governor Baker to fund the program, the Boston Globe published an article on January 5th chronicling the cross-sector movement behind funding the MA Food Trust.  The article sparked interest from two local radio stations whose hosts were shocked to learn that Massachusetts ranks 48th in the nation for grocery access and that a solution to problem, The MA Food Trust, has yet to be funded despite that fact that it will require minimal state investment for a large return.

Jenny Silverman of the Dorchester Community Food Coop joined Rebekah on Radio Boston to provide a local community based perspective on why increased access to healthy foods is necessary in Boston neighborhoods.
Read on
Action Alert: Attend Hearing on the Fair Share Constitutional Amendment
State House | January 19th, 2016
On Tuesday, January 19th, a legislative hearing will be held at the State House on the Fair Share Constitutional Amendment.  

The Campaign for the Fair Share Amendment is being led by Raise Up Massachusetts. If passed, the Fair Share Amendment will create additional revenue which will be invested in transportation, public education and secondary schools in Massachusetts. Improving transportation infrastructure, building quality schools and increasing access to public college are key to addressing the social determinants of health responsible for health disparities in our state. Click here for more information and to register to attend.
New MA Local Food Action Plan Addresses Access to Healthy, Affordable Foods
December 18, 2015 | Greenfield, MA
On December 18, 2015, the Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs (EEA), Matthew Beaton, and the Commissioner of MA Department of Agricultural Resources, John Lebeaux, officially released the new "Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan" in Greenfield, MA. Among the 150 recommendations made in the Food Plan are several aimed at improving access to healthy and affordable foods. They include support for implementing the Massachusetts Food Trust and increasing access to SNAP benefits. Read on
Public Health News
State of Black Massachusetts: Report Highlights Need for Policies to Address the Social Determinants of Health
On December 11, 2015, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center released a new report,  Race to Equity: The State of Black Massachusetts . The report documents the prevalence of racial disparities in Massachusetts and highlights the need for policies to reduce inequity. Policies such as Paid Family and Medical Leave, investments in affordable and accessible transportation, raising the minimum wage, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are cited as important tools to help close the racial wealth gap and to address the social determinants of health. Read on
Problem Gambling Services Strategic Plan Released for Public Comment
Deadline Friday, January 22, 2016
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Department of Public Health have released the Problem Gambling Services Strategic Plan for public comment. It is critical that members of the public health community weigh in on the Plan. MPHA Executive Director Rebekah Gewirtz is a member of the Public Health Trust Fund, which will be voting on the Plan. Rebekah will also be reviewing the Plan to assure that public health needs are adequately addressed.

Please feel free to get in touch with Rebekah with any questions or comments you have on the Plan at: rgewirtz@mapublichealth.org or (857) 263-7072 ext.100The open comment period ends Friday, January 22, 2016. Click here to read the Problem Gambling Services Strategic Plan and here to submit comment. 
Spotlight
Food Insecurity: A Year-Round Problem 
Across Massachusetts
The end of the year is often a time of giving, a time to donate to local food banks or to volunteer at a soup kitchen.  When January rolls around we are excited to start a new year, to leave behind bad habits and to begin our New Year resolutions, but let's not forget that when January comes around the individuals and families that benefit from that end of year giving are still facing hardships. 

Over 1 million Massachusetts residents lack access to healthy and affordable foods, including 300,000 children. One in eight people in Massachusetts struggle with hunger. Our long, cold winters often force our most vulnerable families to choose between paying their utility or rent bills, or purchasing food. The high rates of food insecurity in Massachusetts have a number of causes, including low wages, poverty, and limited grocery access. 

Fortunately, there are policies and programs that can reduce food insecurity and increase family stability. Policies that support increased wages and earned income tax credits allow families who are struggling financially to keep that little bit of extra income in their pockets so that they don't need to choose between food and housing. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides much needed assistance for individuals and families to purchase healthy foods and supplement their grocery purchases, while the Healthy Incentive Program (HIP) helps to stretch those dollars at participating farmers' markets, mobile markets, and CSAs. The  Massachusetts Food Trust, which was established in law in 2014 but has yet to be funded, will reduce food insecurity in our communities by increasing access to healthy foods and creating much needed jobs.

What can you do? Show your support this month and every month of the year by taking action and joining MPHA's efforts to reduce food insecurity. Get more involved in the campaign to fund the Massachusetts Food Trust Program by contacting Kristina St. Cyr,  kstcyr@mapublichealth.org, and stay up-to-date on current policies and programs by following MPHA on Twitter ( @MAPublicHealth) and Facebook ( ActionforAHealthyMass). Food insecurity is an issue all year round, start this year off right by doing what you can to make every home a food secure home.
New Reports and Upcoming Events  

New Report: Race to Equity: The State of Black Massachusetts.  Commissioned by the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.

1.26.16: Complete Streets: Benefits, Eligibility & Funding" workshop , 1pm-4pm, Hadley Farms Meeting House, Hadley. Register with Baystate Roads

1.27.16: Complete Streets: Benefits, Eligibility & Funding" workshop 9am-noon, Devens Common Center, 31 Andrews Pkwy, Devens.  Register with  Baystate Roads

1.28.16: Complete Streets: Benefits, Eligibility & Funding" workshop 9am-noon, Colonial Hotel, Gardner. Register with Baystate Roads

2.1.16: Complete Streets: Benefits, Eligibility & Funding" workshop 1pm-4pm, Northern Essex Community College, Room LC301, Lawrence. Register with Baystate Roads

2.3.16:  Beyond Ferguson: Social Injustice and the Health of the Public, Dean's Symposia 8:15am-2:35 pm. Hiebert Lounge, Boston University. Register here
The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) is the champion for public health in the Commonwealth. We are the catalyst for change, eliminating health inequities and creating healthy communities for all. For more information, visit us at  mapublichealth.org or call 857.263.7072.