Issue 2
November 2015
Changing the Landscape for Smoke-Free Housing in Boston: Increasing Supply and Access  
It's no secret that secondhand smoke is harmful. The dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke are so great that a ban on smoking for all work places, offices, restaurants and bars has been in place in Massachusetts since 2004.
In collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission's (BPHC) Division of Healthy Homes and Community Supports, Let's Get Healthy Boston! (LGHB) has gained ground on transforming the landscape of smoke-free housing in Boston.  In our first year (September 2014-2015), three Community Development Corporation (CDC), two management companies and 15 private landlords transitioned 3,800 units with almost 10,000 residents, to smoke free.
Congratulations to the following partners that either have completed their transition portfolio-wide or are in the process of transitioning all their buildings to smoke-free for the health of their residents:
  • Beacon Communities
  • Tenants' Development Corporation
  • Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation
  • Asian CDC
  • Codman Square CDC
  • East Boston NOAH
  • Urban Edge
  • Madison Park
  • Peabody Properties
  • Maloney Properties, Inc.
  • United Housing
  • Metro Management
  • Jamaicaway Towers & Townhouses
  • Trinity Management

LGHB is currently working with 20 additional partners, including community development corporations, large management companies and private landlords, to help more residential buildings go smoke-free. BPHC promotes voluntary implementation of smoke free housing policies and provides free training and technical assistance to property owners and managers on transition and implementation of smoke free policies based on best practices.
  Smoke-free housing training for United Housing Management staff.
LGHB's Healthy Community Champions, neighborhood residents who engage in education and advocacy for healthier neighborhoods, have also joined the smoke- free housing effort.   Approximately 26 Champions from Allston/Brighton, Charlestown, East Boston, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Dorchester, Roxbury, South Boston and the South End have been trained to engage landlords in their neighborhoods about the benefits of smoke-free housing and are involved in public process discussions to support smoke-free housing throughout Boston.

Are you interested in your multi-unit building becoming smoke free?  Or do you know landlords or property managers who have not yet made the transition to smoke free and can benefit from our training and technical assistance?  If so please contact Eugene Barros at 617-534-2670 or
Or are you a tenant wondering how to find a smoke-free apartment in Boston?  The simplest approach is to ask your prospective landlord or property manager if they have transitioned to smoke free.  In the coming months, two city agencies, the Inspectional Services Department and the Office of Fair Housing and Equity, will be adding public access to their housing databases that ask landlords to indicate their building policies about smoking.

Check out the Boston Public Health Commission's Boston Smoke Free Homes website for additional information.
ReThink Your Drink: Making the Healthier Choices be the Easier Choices
The evidence that sugar is a major contributor to obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes continues to mount [1] . And sugary drinks, or sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are the single largest source of added sugar in our diets.

Let's Get Healthy, Boston! is reaching out to Boston's community pharmacies to join in efforts to promote healthier beverages such as water and low-calorie drinks as part of their mission as health care businesses. The three major pharmacy chains have more than 60 Boston stores and they are the biggest retailers in many neighborhoods.  Many have large beverage sections, making sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages available to the thousands of youth and adults who shop at Boston pharmacies every day.

One simple approach is for pharmacies to join other Boston organizations and businesses that have used the ReThink Your Drink signage to help consumers make healthier beverage choices.  

ReThink Your Drink uses a "traffic light" graphic designed to help consumers choose healthier beverages based on calories and sugar content.

In the past several months, Healthy Community Champions from six community-based organizations in Allston/Brighton, Roxbury, North Dorchester, Mattapan, and South Boston visited 80% of their neighborhood retail pharmacies. Champions educated store managers about the ReThink Your Drink initiative and asked them to sign on with a pledge to promote healthy beverages in their stores. Most store managers understood the connection to their health mission and encouraged further advocacy with their chains' corporate headquarters.

We also received permission for our evaluation team from Harvard Prevention Research Center to conduct baseline evaluations of the beverage environment in 20 stores.  These data will allow us to track changes in how different types of beverages are placed and promoted in pharmacies over time. 

Some of the changes that have occurred in other retail settings, including hospital cafeterias and supermarkets, and that pharmacies could make, include:
  • Permanent placement of ReThink Your Drink signage near beverage points of sale
  • Placing water, rather than sugary drinks, near the check-out line
  • Advertising water specials and promotions of flavored seltzers
  • Changing the mix and placement of beverages in coolers so that healthier options are more numerous and at eye level.
Stay tuned for future updates as Let's Get Healthy, Boston! continues to develop a partnership with Boston's pharmacies.

We're also very excited to announce a partnership with Northeastern University's BouvĂ© College of Health Sciences School of Pharmacy to offer a one-hour unit on ReThink Your Drink as part of its annual two-day continuing pharmacist education series.  We believe this December workshop will be the first-ever effort to offer direct professional development to pharmacists on how they can be partners in addressing the role sugar and sugary drinks in obesity and chronic disease.

Interested in ReThink Your Drink materials for your organization?  
Contact Felipe Ruiz at

[1] For example, see the recent study by Robert Lustig et al published online in Obesity, October 26, 2015. Isocaloric fructose restriction and metabolic improvement in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Partner of the Month
Organization:  Sociedad Latina

Neighborhood: Mission Hill

Topic Area/s: Sweet and Sugary Beverages
Why did your organization become involved in this project?

Here at Sociedad we have a long history of being involved with community based health campaigns and have two programs, the Health Educators and the Health Careers for Youth, who are dedicated to this issue. So it was a very natural campaign for us to get involved with as it falls right in line with our policies and philosophies in regards to nutrition and diet for our youth.

So far, what have you enjoyed the most about being a Healthy Community Champion Organization?

 I have really enjoyed getting to meet so many great people, both within our immediate community and in our HCC community. The relationships built at trainings are awesome as the room is full of people with a shared vision and goals.

What improvements does your organization hope to accomplish in your community through the work the Healthy Community Champions are doing?

We hope to raise the awareness of our community members about the effects sugar heavy drinks can have on their long term health. We also hope to begin to change the philosophy of people to be more inclined to want water then soda and other unhealthy beverages.

Please share some of the work your Healthy Community Champions have been doing to improve healthy lifestyles in your community?

Throughout the summer we would have tables at our community VIVA nights where we would have literature on healthy beverages as well samples of different ways to make water more appealing.

Could you share some success and challenges that you have faced through this project?

We have had a lot of success in talking to community members as we engaged hundreds throughout the summer and were received very well.

A challenge we have had is that there are different managers at the various pharmacies depending on the time of day you go, which makes it difficult because then you need to restart conversations, but we have taken it as a positive as it has allowed us to reach even more managers and get a stronger base of support.

How has the knowledge you have acquired so far through the training impacted the work you are doing in the community?

The training gave us the proper background to actually talk to people about the issues with sugar heavy beverages.  It also gave us good strategies on how to engage the community.

What is one piece of advice you'd like to share with other organizations in Boston who'd like to take action to improve their health and the health of their community?

All you need is a few people with good energy and a passion to help their community. It is not a quick process, but the journey is very enjoyable and you will grow a lot from the experience. 

To learn more about Sociedad Latina click HERE.

Let's Get Healthy, Boston! is made possible, in part, by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The views expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the CDC; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

For more information about Let's Get Healthy, Boston! please contact
Stephanie Voltaire
Boston Public Health Commission 

Let's Get Healthy, Boston!, 
formerly  known as Partnerships to Improve Community Health project (PICH), is a partnership of the Boston Alliance for Community Health and the Boston Public Health Commission to make it easier for residents to make healthy choices in physical activity, nutrition and smoke-free housing. 


This three-year initiative is funded by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the prevalence of obesity, tobacco use and exposure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in the city of Boston.


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