Cambridge’s Work to Address Root Causes of Poor Health Gains National Attention
February 21, 2013
Cambridge, MA — Cambridge is one of six winners nationwide of the inaugural Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Culture of Health Prize (formerly called the Roadmaps to Health Prize). The prize honors outstanding community partnerships across the United States that are helping residents lead healthier lives.
The community has received a cash prize of $25,000 in recognition of its efforts and was honored on Feb. 20 at an event held at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey. The city of Cambridge will celebrate this achievement during National Public Health Week in April.
“These prize winners represent leadership at its finest—trailblazers creating a culture of health,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and CEO. “Today we honor leaders from government, business, public health, health care, and education who stand shoulder-to-shoulder working toward better health. The RWJF Culture of Health Prize shines a light on their accomplishments; we hope it will inspire others to take bold steps to improve health in their communities.”
Cambridge was honored for its achievements in the areas of healthy eating and physical activity, strengthening families, progressive urban planning, and integration of public health within the Cambridge Health Alliance health care model.
Cambridge was also recognized for its collaborative approach to health in which non-profit agencies like the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, local coalitions, and residents work closely with local government to identify and solve issues impacting the health of the community.
As a community, Cambridge strives to prevent disease and injury by addressing the root causes of poor health, which include poverty, low education, racism, and unsafe neighborhoods.
“Being a healthy city means more than having doctors and hospitals in your community—it’s about providing opportunities for education and good employment, preventing crime, strengthening families, and stopping the occurrence of illness in the first place,” said Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy.
One of Cambridge’s biggest investments has been in children and families because early childhood experiences have an enormous impact on lifelong health, academic achievement, and future earnings.
“In Cambridge, we believe paving the road to good health begins at birth,” said Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis.
To improve the lives of its youngest citizens, the city offers innovative early education and parenting programs, such as:
Baby University, a free program for Cambridge families with children newborn to age 3 that promotes strong parent-child relationships through workshops, playgroups, and participants sharing “success stories.”
Let’s Talk, an award-winning early literacy program that empowers immigrant and low-income families to be their child’s first and most important teacher, and delivers the message that learning begins at birth.
A nationally accredited, affordable preschool program that focuses on learning through play and teaches children school readiness and social skills.
The city has made similar investments in public health, health care, schools, urban planning, affordable housing, and human services—creating a culture in which city departments, neighborhood groups, hospitals, community and faith-based organizations, universities, businesses, and residents routinely come together to address complex health, environmental, and social issues.
“We have seen real improvements in health in Cambridge, and I attribute this in large part to the city’s collaborative spirit and willingness to tackle the ‘upstream’ causes of sickness and injury,” said Claude Alix Jacob, Chief Public Health Officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department.
Cambridge was among six communities selected for the award from more than 160 applications. The other winning communities are Fall River, Massachusetts; Santa Cruz County, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; Manistique, Michigan; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Learn more about the RWJF Culture of Health Prize and watch a video profile of Cambridge and the other prize winners at http://www.rwjf.org.
For more information on the Cambridge prize and local programs, visit www.cambridgepublichealth.org.
With over 105,000 people located in a 6.25 square mile area, Cambridge is a tight-knit community with a strong mix of cultural and social diversity, intellectual vitality, and technological innovation. Across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge preserves the neighborhood intimacy of a small city while serving as one of the most cosmopolitan intersections of individuals and ideas in the nation. The city is home to two world-renowned institutions, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a quarter of residents were born outside the U.S. While the Cambridge population is largely affluent and well-educated, about 15% of residents live at or below the federal poverty line and 17% have a high school education or less. Through a vibrant spirit of collaboration, city and community leaders work together to improve the health and well-being of all residents.
About Cambridge Public Health Department
Cambridge Public Health Department is a municipal health agency operated by Cambridge Health Alliance through a contract with the City of Cambridge. The department’s mission is to improve the quality of life of residents and workers by reducing sickness and injury; encouraging healthy behaviors; and fostering safe and healthy environments. Service areas include communicable disease prevention and control, epidemiology, school health, environmental health, emergency preparedness, health promotion, and regulatory enforcement.
Cambridge Health Alliance is an integrated, award-winning health system that provides high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston’s metro-north communities. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices, and the Cambridge Public Health Department. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter (@RWJF) and Facebook (facebook.com/RobertWoodJohnsonFoundation).