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Home > News & Events > Newsletter > News from Around New England - MA
Newsletter (News from Around New England - MA)
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News from Around New England - Massachusetts

Findings from Public Health in the 21st Century

In January 2004, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) launched, "Public Health in the 21st Century" (PH21), to develop a plan to move public health ahead, both locally and statewide. The role of public health should continue to evolve in response to the changing demographic needs, emerging diseases, trends, and health promotion efforts. PH21 gathered input from key stakeholders in government, local communities, and the public to develop a renewed vision of public health, build a consensus-driven public health agenda, and create a plan for next steps based on input from PH21 participants.

To elicit input, former Commissioner Christine Ferguson held Roundtables, Brown Bag Sessions, and Regional Forums. Following the initial roundtables and brown bags, DPH sponsored eight regional forums in Fall 2004. Forums provided the opportunity for community leaders, state and local officials, public health practitioners, and health and human service providers to learn more about health in their region and contribute ideas, information, and insights for the development of a strategic plan for public health. All forums followed a similar agenda but included a specific topic developed from regional input.


Provide leadership to promote public health across the state and at the local level. Set agendas without creating obstacles to service provision. Advocate for attention to, and resources for emerging health issues as well as those historically neglected. Encourage prevention and protection using risk/protective factors. Use the healthy community framework for regional planning and strengthening the local public health infrastructure.

Use data and evaluation to prioritize issues, inform practice, and support programs. Define a research agenda including evidence-based programs and the efficacy of prevention. Develop universal indicators that measure success. Improve the ease of data reporting and exchange, allowing localities to use data for comparisons of similar cities and towns. Include data collection of health disparities.

Promote collaboration and partnerships with local boards of health, community providers such as outreach workers, health centers and hospitals; schools, planning and zoning officials, business and others in the private sector, and other state agencies (including mental health, elder services, public safety, education, and environmental protection). Support cross-training opportunities.

Reduce health disparities by providing accessible racial, ethnic, and linguistic services and strengthening the capacity of communities to meet local needs. Encourage diversity through hiring and recruitment policies and practices. Support the DPH Diversity Council and appoint an advisory council to the Commissioner for addressing health disparities. Develop appropriate responses and policies to meet the needs of rural towns. Address disparities in health related to socio-economic status and access to health care.

Communicate the mission, responsibilities, and importance of public health. Provide a broad definition of public health across the lifespan. Use the media effectively to convey simple and easily understood health messages to the public. Promote public health issues to the legislature, and engage the public to develop a constituency to advocate for resources and effective policies. While many of the themes and issues were shared by communities across the state, it is important to recognize the distinctive needs of each local and regional area. Communities require a sensitive and flexible approach for response to their unique public health issues.

DPH wants to know if preliminary findings reflect your thoughts and ideas and wants any feedback regarding concrete steps to address these findings. Please send your message by email to: with "PH21" in the subject line.
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Community Health Workers: Essential to Improving Health in Massachusetts

Community health workers (CHWs) are an essential part of the healthcare system providing an important bridge between the health and human service system and their communities. CHWs improve access to and increase utilization of primary health care, reduce costs of care, improve quality, and reduce health disparities.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) conducted a study of CHWs in Massachusetts in order to develop more effective strategies for their support, development, recruitment, and retention. The MDPH, Division of Primary Care and Health Access, Bureau of Family and Community Health recently released findings of this study in a report: Community Health Workers: Essential to Improving Health in Massachusetts. This report addresses: Who are CHWs? What do they do? What are the defining workforce issues of CHWs? How can we better understand and support CHWs in order to improve health outcomes?

To view this outstanding report go to:
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