Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined Dr. Paula Johnson, chair of the board of the Boston Public Health Commission, to honor the recipients of this year’s Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care. The event, now in its third year, works to raise awareness about best practices for improving the delivery of primary care services in healthcare, community-based, and workplace settings.
“Some of Boston’s greatest assets are our world-renowned health care institutions. Part of being a leader means highlighting the great work that goes on in our city as a model for others to see,” Mayor Menino said. “I’m constantly impressed by the innovative work that organizations of all sizes are able to accomplish, and this year’s winners champion that spirit of ingenuity. These awards strive to show that prevention is primary care, whether it’s in the doctor’s office, the workplace, or the community.”
This year’s honorees included South Cove Community Health Center, for its work to develop culturally sensitive mental health screening tools for Asian American patients, as well as Health Care Without Harm and Dorchester House Multi-Services Center, which each undertook separate efforts to foster healthier food and workplace environments.
South Cove, the premier Asian community health center of Massachusetts, provides services and programming for over 26,000 clients in greater Boston. Understanding that Asian Americans experience similar rates of depression compared to other groups but face greater barriers to receiving treatment due to language differences, cultural stigma, and lack of resources, clinicians at South Cove set out to tackle this health inequity by improving upon their standard primary care delivery system. Over the course of a decade, the health center developed a pioneering framework that involves systematic depression screening, psychiatric assessment, and care management with a focus on the patient’s unique cultural beliefs and mental health situation. In the years since the system was first implemented, South Cove has seen a sevenfold increase in its Asian-American patients.
“The health center’s Primary Care Integration Program employs systematic depression screening, active out-reach to depressed patients, and a culturally sensitive interviewing approach. The program has been shown to improve recognition and treatment of depression among minority patients,” said Dr. Albert Yeung, who oversees the program.
Eugene Welch, Executive Director of South Cove, expressed his sincere gratitude for the award, saying “South Cove is honored and humbled to receive this recognition for being true to our mission of serving the underserved Asian community with linguistically and culturally competent staff for the last 40 years of. We thank Mayor Menino and the City of Boston for recognizing innovative work in primary care delivery.”
Prevention works best when community organizations and healthcare providers join together to create a healthier environment for residents. Health Care Without Harm works with partners around the world to implement ecologically sound and healthy alternatives to health care practices that harm the environment and contribute to disease. The organization was honored for its Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) that focuses in part on improving the food and beverage environment within hospitals, places that touch hundreds of thousands of lives in Boston every year. All major teaching hospitals in the city joined a Healthy Beverage Learning Network in 2010 that was co-led by Health Care Without Harm. The initiative is now being scaled nationwide, as hundreds of hospitals and food service contractors have begun to view food production and distribution through the lens of preventative medicine. Partners HealthCare, Inc, Boston’s leading employer, is one of the 11 health system founders of HHI.
“In order to reverse the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in America, we need the healthcare sector to lead by example and create healthy food environments for patients and employees,” said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm. “Healthcare is an important economic engine and can leverage its enormous purchasing power to support sustainable agriculture in the communities that it serves.”
Dorchester House, a community health center located in Fields Corner, was honored by the Mayor for its efforts to promote workplace wellness. As a major employer of and provider to Dorchester residents, the center has a unique stake in its employees’ health. In February 2011, the center established a 20-member committee that has since created a fun and engaging wellness program built around staff feedback. The committee organized free fitness classes, established a fitness room in the health center, and created physical activity challenges in which over half the staff participated. The push to increase exercise among employees was combined with an equally strong emphasis on addressing healthy eating, which resulted in healthy cooking competitions and an onsite farmers market.
“One of Dorchester House’s greatest assets is our dedicated staff, and as such our workplace wellness program represents an investment in our employees,” said Michelle Nadow, interim Executive Director of Dorchester House. “By building a Healthy Dorchester House we are delivering health care in an environment that supports and promotes the healthy behaviors of not only our patients but also our staff, of whom over 50 percent live in the Dorchester community and surrounding neighborhoods. Staff, in turn, are also community ambassadors of our mission to promote positive change in wellbeing in the community.”
Today’s event, held at the historic Boston Public Library in Copley Square, featured Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby as keynote speaker. It was sponsored by the Boston University School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School’s Center for Primary Care, and Harvard University School of Public Health.
This year’s award winners add to a diverse array of mayoral prize honorees since 2010. To learn more about previous winners, visit http://www.bphc.org/Pages/MayoralPrize2012.aspx.