massachusetts public health association


Boston’s Million-Pound Goal Looks Like A Losing Battle, But…

Thomas Menino

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino cuts cake during last year’s Boston Harborfest, back when cake was likelier to be on the menu. (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

Boston’s battle to lose is looking, at the moment, like a losing battle. That is to say, Mayor Thomas Menino’s one-year goal of a million collectively shed pounds by late next month is looking exceedingly distant. As the Boston Globe declares in this feature story by lifestyle reporter Beth Teitell:

So far we’ve lost 95,697 pounds. Only 904,303 to go. By April 23.

People, now would be a good time to start that juice fast.

Beth joins us on Radio Boston between 3 and 4 today to discuss the city’s weight-loss campaign. Just a couple of points to note:

It’s very hard to know whether that disappointing poundage is a true failure to lose or just a failure to track. I spoke today to Boston City Councillor Felix Arroyo. Last year, when Mayor Menino announced his million-pound march, WBUR’s Delores Handy reported that he also personally pledged to lose two pounds a month himself. Other weight-loss pledges followed, she reported, including Arroyo’s goal of over three pounds a month.

So how did he do? Not badly. He hasn’t lost the 36-plus pounds he pledged, but he estimates he’s lost about 10 pounds, mainly by cutting back on unhealthy food and listening to the stomach that tells him he’s full rather than the taste buds that tell him the food is delicious.

He’s doing just what weight loss experts suggest, creating a sustainable, healthier lifestyle rather than following an extreme, faddish diet. Just one rub: he didn’t think he’d charted his weight loss on the city’s Website, and if a man who’s civically oriented enough to be a city councillor doesn’t get around to doing it, you can bet a great many other citizens are similarly remiss.

“Most people I talk to think about weight loss at one point or another, and it’s not the easiest thing to do but I also suspect it may not be the easiest thing to track on a mass scale,” he said. It may not be possible to know whether Boston has lost a million pounds or not, he said, because it’s so hard “to create a mass consciousness across the city of, ‘Lose weight and track it in this place.’ I don’t envy the work of the people trying to do that.'” Continue reading

Nearly 300 Leaders: ‘MA Health Reform Must Include Prevention’

Sounds like just about anybody who’s anybody in Massachusetts health care has signed a letter delivered to lawmakers today urging that health care reform include a strong element of prevention. This just in from the Massachusetts Public Health Association:

This morning, a coalition of public health and health care leaders delivered a letter to Massachusetts legislative leaders urging them to include a robust program of community-based prevention, including dedicated funding, in the next phase of health reform. The letter includes nearly 300 signatures, of which 118 are Massachusetts organizations, municipalities, or businesses. The letter and full list of signers can be viewed here or at


“We spend most of our health care dollars caring for individuals once they’ve already become sick, and only three percent of our health care dollars on preventing diseases from developing in the first place,” said Valerie Bassett, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association. “Today we are saying to the legislature that in order for payment reform to succeed, prevention must be at the center.”

The coalition cited rising medical costs – comprised mostly of preventable conditions – as one reason they organized the campaign. A January, 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that a mere 5% reduction in the costs of treating diabetes and hypertension could save the Commonwealth nearly $500 million each year.

Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Executive Director of Health Care For All and a convener of the Campaign for Better Care said, “The opportunity that we have before us today – to enact comprehensive payment reform that emphasizes prevention and wellness, not only disease treatment – may not come again for decades.”

Just an idle question that comes to mind: If there’s this much consensus about the importance and cost-effectiveness of prevention, why do public health budgets keep getting slashed?