The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has completed its tri-annual Health Needs Assessment and Implementation Strategy in Revere, Chelsea and Charlestown and have found many of the same concerns as when the first assessment was done in 2012.
The top concerns in all three communities was, first, substance abuse and, second, crime/violence – which were the top two concerns three years ago as well.
“We saw the same concerns this time around and substance use were up as an item of great concern like three years ago,” said Leslie Aldrich, associate director of MGH Center for Community Health Improvement. “That’s disappointing, but directly related to the opioid epidemic. Crime and violence are up there as well, followed by obesity, education, mental health, environment and housing.”
Said RevereCARES Director Silvia Chiang, “Mental health was a huge concern and significant in our communities and coming in higher this time was also concerns about housing and food insecurity. These determinants were stronger in this year’s assessment.”
Environment also played a large role as well this time, she said.
Aldrich said respondents in Chelsea and Charlestown, however, were hopeful that things were going to get better.
“We did hear people in Chelsea felt more tied into the community than the last assessment,” said Aldrich. “More than 50 percent of the survey respondents in Chelsea felt the community had improved in the last three years. Charlestown had 66 percent who felt that the community will improve in the next three years. Those two communities showed optimism and that was good to hear.”
All said the assessments have become very important to the work they’re doing in the community.
“That’s why these processes are so important, because they help us to find out new community concerns,” said Aldrich.
Added Chiang, “It definitely informs our work.”
Across the board in all three communities, one major new point of concern was tobacco use – particularly the vapor cigarettes.
“The vaping is a concern with that shift in the technology,” said Aldrich, noting that many of those products appear to be marketed toward young people. “With all the progress that we made with tobacco, now it feels we have to start again with this. It proves the work is never done.”
Said Chiang, “You do not know what’s in the juice. It could be nothing, it could be nicotine or it could be marijuana. We found parents really weren’t aware about electronic cigarette use and the products.”
Moving forward in taking action, representatives said the three coalitions would move to work together more often – especially on the opioid and substance abuse work.
“It’s really kind of building on the foundations we’ve created in these communities and looking to the robust we can make between RevereCARES, Healthy Chelsea and Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition (CSAC),” said Aldrich. “RevereCARES was the first to morph into a healthy communities coalition, but all of our coalitions are moving towards being health communities coalitions.” The 2015 assessment process began in February with quality of life surveys and continued in April and May with community meetings and data analysis. In July, focus groups were held across the board, and on Sept. 18, the Board of Trustees approved the new plan.