2022: Year in Review

As 2022 comes to a close, our team is reflecting on the many accomplishments we’ve had this year. From progress with local partners in our core research project and success in our COVID-19 vaccine equity work to hosting the 10th cohort of emerging leaders in health and presenting our research to others in the field, we’ve seen a variety of accomplishments here at the HPRC. Read on to learn more about our 2022 highlights.

A teacher sitting in a classroom with six elementary school students. They are sitting in chairs arranged in a circle, playing a game, stretching their arms in the air.Highlights from Our Core Research Project: Massachusetts CHOICES Project

This year, we concluded our third year of learning collaborative partnerships with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) as part of our Center’s core research project, the Massachusetts CHOICES Project.

The HPRC concluded its third year of learning collaborative partnerships with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Public Health Commission as part of its core research project. Over the past three years, the health agency teams have participated in training and technical assistance sessions and convened key partner organizations to identify data and gather input needed to project the costs, health outcomes, and impacts of 10 evidence-based strategies to promote healthy eating, active living, and prevent excess weight gain.

Partner engagement has been a critical aspect of this work. This year local health agency teams convened 30 health agency staff members and partners to share their input and participate in this project. Key partners provided input on how the strategies could be implemented locally, identified and provided data relevant to strategy planning and model projections, and reviewed and contributed to project updates and results.

Looking at strategies to improve nutrition and physical activity for kids and connecting with relevant partners to gather input has been a key success for the MDPH and BPHC teams. Claire Santarelli, Director of the Division of Health Protection and Promotion at MDPH and team lead for the Massachusetts CHOICES Project, noted:

“Participating in the CHOICES Learning Collaborative Partnership has connected us to partners and exposed us to strategies we weren’t otherwise on the pulse of. Now we have relationships with partners outside our organization in the physical activity and drinking water spaces. Gathering feedback from these key partners in learning sessions and through partner discussions provided information that will help to support implementation in the future. Strengthened cross-agency collaboration between the Departments of Public Health and Elementary and Secondary Education will also improve our efficiency and collective impact.”

We are excited to kick off the fourth year of our work in the coming months!

Success in Supporting Community-based COVID-19 Vaccination Outreach in Three Massachusetts Communities

In 2021, the HPRC received a CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Network grant to increase vaccine equity in three Massachusetts communities, and the project wrapped up this year.Doctor with mask on

To improve COVID-19 vaccine access in hard-hit Massachusetts communities, we partnered with community-based organizations (CBOs) in Lynn, Brockton, and Springfield and engaged with 16 health ambassadors from these organizations. We created multi-lingual informational flyers on COVID-19 topics that CBOs and health ambassadors identified as concerning to their communities and shared them through email, our website, and at monthly Zoom gatherings with all partners.

Together, the health ambassadors worked well over 3,600 hours, reached nearly 11,400 people, and handed out over 12,000 flyers to their community. They improved vaccine outreach by identifying more strategic places to reach community members, including public neighborhood events and festivals, bus stops, and school-welcome centers. CBOs also reached people through online newsletters, radio shows, webinars, and virtual town-halls.

Health ambassadors reflected on the overall positive experience and impact of doing this outreach work and many have expressed interest in further community health and advocacy work.

Group of individuals who participated in the 2022 Leaders in Health cohort10th Cohort of Leaders in Health

We were excited to host our 10th cohort of the Leaders in Health community training program this fall!

The goal of Leaders in Health is to build the capacity of our community partners by providing participants with an introduction to public health, including the fundamentals of community-based participatory research and program design and evaluation.

This fall we hosted our 10th (and largest ever!) cohort of Leaders in Health. Participants applied core concepts of public health, community-based participatory research, and program evaluation to projects aimed at improving the health of communities across the state of Massachusetts.

Presenting Our Research at APHA 2022150 Years APHA 2022 Annual Meeting & Expo Boston Nov. 6-9 with an illustration of the Boston skyline

We look forward to presenting our research in Boston this year at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting. Several HPRC team members, affiliates, and collaborators will be featured during various sessions, roundtables, and posters.

A panel moderated by our Center’s Director, Steve Gortmaker, will focus on Nutrition Strategies that Cost-Effectively Improve Population Health and Health Equity, and include presentations from HPRC staff, students, and collaborators. The session will explore new CHOICES evaluations of four different nutrition policies. The results of these evaluations indicate clear program and policy successes and different pathways that decision-makers can take to improve population health and promote greater health equity.

Other presentation topics from our team include data from an evaluation of a healthy restaurant kids’ meal policy, strategies to promote safe home water access for low-income families with young children, COVID-19 vaccine equity work, and tools for making a case for improving the built environment, among others.