By Sue Ellen Woodcock
The Revere Cares Coalition is celebrating two decades of working with the City of Revere to make it a healthier, more aware community.
Twenty years ago, Revere Cares was born out of a collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to strengthen the health of Revere. The goal of the coalition is to improve the well-being of Revere’s residents by preventing substance abuse and promoting healthy eating, active living and healthy relationships. On Dec. 7 the coalition will celebrate its time in Revere with a special celebration at the Comfort Inn & Suites. Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo will be a special guest and community awards will be presented.
Revere CARES was founded in 1997, under the direction of Executive Director Kitty Bowman, with a comprehensive community health assessment spearheaded by MGH’s Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI), which collaborates with underserved communities to improve health. During 1995-1996, CCHI partnered with a committee of residents, local officials, police, Revere Public Schools and others to guide a series of focus groups, key informant interviews, and a town hall meeting, and to review city, state, Revere Police, and school data. The results were alarming and included high rates of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use among teens with large increases in use from middle to high school. The vast majority of teens believed these substances were readily available and 51 percent of high school students reported having drunk alcohol. The committee identified youth substance abuse as its priority and restructured as Revere CARES, and work began immediately.
“We have engaged youth in the Power of No Club,” said Viviana Catano, ATOD and communications manager at Revere Cares. “We now have more positive opportunities after school triggered by the club.”
Revere After school Partnership (RAP) has also evolved in the in the schools providing after school programming.
In late 2007, the Coalition expanded its work to address obesity rates that have been on the rise throughout the country, and are now starting to be a concern in Revere. In 2008, representatives of different sectors of the community were invited to join the Food and Fitness Task Force in order to work on developing programs that promote healthy eating and active living among all residents. Twenty-one members were recruited and have participated in the following activities: a review of the current research; a training on strategic planning; mapping of assets; and identification of opportunities in the community. The task force identified three overarching goals: increase access to healthy foods to combat overweight, obesity and hunger in the community and the schools; promote active living by making changes to the community’s built environment and enhance physical activity programs at the schools; and increase awareness and education through diverse media channels. In 2011 the Food and Fitness Task force launched the Revere on the Move campaign to promote active living and healthy eating in the community.
Sylvia Chiang joined the staff in 2007 and became the executive director in 2015. She said the challenges of their work has evolved and empowered the community. Chiang said the city’s SUDI office (Substance Use Disorder Office) and the Healthy Initiatives grew out of that empowerment.
“We’re looking at 20 years of work and a rebirth of the coalition,” Chiang said.