Since 2006, the foundation has invested over $3.5 million in programs and educational efforts to address childhood obesity. In the early years, our approach was multi-dimensional, with grants to support nutrition education and physical activity in schools, afterschool programs and youth-serving agencies; a community awareness campaign to educate parents about the risks of childhood obesity; and policy work to improve school nutrition.
In 2010, our focus shifted to community-wide approaches that brought together key stakeholders in local towns who could influence long-term environmental, policy and behavior change that addresses the root cause of overweight and obesity in children. The foundation has been a supporter of Mass in Motion and then later the Community Transformation Grant/MetroWest Moves project, a tri-town effort to improve access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.
Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
In 2004, the foundation commissioned the Harvard School of Public Health to study the issue of racial and ethnic disparities in MetroWest. The report found that many disparities exist in the Latino, Brazilian and African American communities.
To address these disparities, the foundation launched an initiative designed to achieve the following objectives: improve cultural and linguistic competence of health care providers and nonprofit agencies; offer grants to address disparities by increasing access to health insurance, reducing emergency room use, reducing teen pregnancy rates, and decreasing diabetes hospitalizations; increase the number of minority physicians in MetroWest by creating the Dr. Leon Nicks Minority Health Fellows program. The foundation continues to host the Disparities Workgroup, an ongoing coalition that promotes dialogue and effective solutions to reducing disparities in health and health care.
Youth Substance Abuse
To address the high rates of youth drinking and other illegal drug use in MetroWest, the foundation created a new initiative in 2005 to support community-wide efforts. Eleven communities were awarded grants of up to $200,000 for a three-year period for prevention, intervention and increased access to treatment. The foundation also hired Education Development Center to provide technical assistance in the areas of stakeholder engagement, messaging, evidence-based curricula and sustainability. Several grantee communities received significant federal grants to continue this work once foundation funding ended.