In 2008, Mayor Thomas M. Menino convened a summit of Boston’s leading healthcare, academic, policy, and community leaders to address primary care access in the city. As a result of that summit, Mayor Menino formed the Mayor’s Task Force on Improving Access to Primary Care in Boston, which created a set of recommendations that have served as a road map to increase access, improve quality, and integrate public health efforts with the primary care system.
Since 2010, the Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care has recognized Boston-based organizations that are transforming the primary care landscape and improving our city’s health in three settings – Healthcare, the Community, and the Workplace. As Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s tenure concludes, we catch up with past winners to learn not only what the Mayoral Prize has meant to them, but also to learn what further achievements they have made since accepting the award.
Since 1979, Codman Square Health Center (CSHC), a Dorchester-based community and health center, has addressed health inequities and poor health that are a direct result of poverty. CSHC provides quality care services to over 20,000 clients, providing over 100,000 visits annually. Open daily, CSHC offers primary and urgent care, dentistry, eye care, behavioral health, and specialty clinical services for patients with chronic conditions, including diabetes and HIV. In addition to earning Level 3 status by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, CSHC has developed comprehensive community programs that go beyond the clinical setting, including adult education, anti-violence workshops, and financial literacy programs. Its numerous collaborations include DotWell, a partnership with Dorchester House Multi-Service Center that aims to provide integrated clinical and community services to the community; Healthworks at Codman, which offers fitness programming to low-income women and children; and the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, which offers greater access to fresh produce and fitness opportunities close to home.
CSHC further sets itself apart as a unique healthcare and community member with the Codman Academy Public Charter School (CAPCS), the only high school in the nation that is embedded in a health center. CACS offers a rigorous curriculum and several professional development opportunities for 350 diverse students from Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade, 75% of whom are eligible for reduced-cost lunches.
Started as a charter school in 2001, the school offers an intensive 6-day program, a 30% increase in instruction time for Codman students throughout the school year. The school’s main objectives are to graduate their students from college and to encourage low-income minority youth to become leading healthcare professionals. By being situated in a health center, CACS students are exposed to healthcare professionals and can see first-hand what their day-to-day work life could potentially be like. With 18% of jobs in Boston devoted to healthcare positions and only a small percentage of medical professionals of color, Codman aims to give underprivileged students the skills and motivation to excel academically and professionally. In addition to being an Expeditionary Learning School and offering academic and extracurricular opportunities, CACS offers 2 -week required internship programs with CSHC during their junior and senior year. During their internship, students are paired with mentors from the health center‘s staff who serve as role models to the students. As a result of its intensive training and curriculum, 73% of CACS students have graduated from or are currently enrolled in college, with a large percentage passing standardized exams with high scores.
With municipal support, strategic fundraising, and strong community partnerships, Codman Square Health Center and its Academy has demonstrated outstanding success and aims to serve as a national model for school/community health center partnerships. As the first Mayoral Prize Winner for Innovations in a Community Setting in 2010, CSHC has since made great advancements. They developed a comprehensive 5-year strategic plan for growth and relocated to the William Walczak Health & Education Center last fall. The school now offers a CSHC-employed nurse and is working with the Harvard School of Public Health to study the impact of a nutrition intervention program on Codman students. Along with earning the Mayoral Prize, CACS received the School Wellness Award in 2010 and has been nationally recognized as an award-winning school for outstanding academic achievement under the EPIC National Charter School Consortium in 2012. To date, CACS reached its goal of a 100% acceptance rate for students to attend college. They have also expanded their support services, offering an on-site social worker and mental health screenings to all students, a regular Advisory Group, and a 3-day residential leadership program for students and faculty. Acknowledging its high-risk patient and student population for chronic illness, CSHC-led initiatives have led to a Junk Food Free Zone at the academy and health center, an executive chef who prepares healthy meals with fresh, locally grown food; and a mandatory nutrition competency exam students must pass to graduate.
In addition to its collaborations with local partners to optimizing resources that promote a healthy, economically and environmentally sustainable community, Codman Academy offers the city a great service in ensuring the success of low-income youth of color in the field of healthcare. With more minority youth entering health and medical professions, our healthcare delivery system is evolving to become more culturally competent and well-equipped to meet the health demands of the diverse communities they serve, and to make healthcare more equitable at both the patient and professional level.
To learn about all our past Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care winners, please click here.