Saturday, July 11, 2015

MetroWest Health Foundation: July News

July 2015

MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey Data Shows Teen Smoking Decline After Tobacco Purchase Age Goes to 21

A new EDC study has shown significant declines in teen smoking after raising the minimum sales age for tobacco to 21. The study, which examines trends in the actual prevalence of smoking associated with raising the minimum sales age, was published online June 12 in the journal Tobacco Control.

The research focused on Needham, Massachusetts, which in April 2005 became the first town in the United States to raise the minimum tobacco sales age to 21; no other localities did so until 2012. The study found a significantly greater decline in smoking in Needham when compared to 16 communities west of Boston that maintained a minimum sales age of 18. The study examined data from the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, a biennial census survey of more than 16,000 high school students funded by the MetroWest Health Foundation.

The analysis, done in collaboration with researchers at Brown University and Harvard Medical School, found that from 2006 to 2010 teen smoking in Needham dropped from 13 to 7 percent-a significantly greater decline than in the comparison communities where smoking decreased from 15 to 12 percent. This larger decline was consistent for both males and females, whites and nonwhites, and students in grades 10, 11, and 12. Cigarette purchases in stores among current smokers also declined significantly more in Needham than in the comparison communities.

Researchers say the findings support local action to raise the tobacco sales age to 21.

"Needham is an example for other communities considering policy changes to reduce youth smoking," said Shari Kessel Schneider, who led the study with her EDC colleagues and researchers from Brown University and Harvard Medical School. "Our findings support efforts to raise the minimum sales age as a mechanism for preventing youth access to cigarettes, smoking initiation, and ultimately nicotine addiction."
The foundation is also working to extend the Tobacco 21 movement across other MetroWest communities. Through a foundation grant, the Natick Board of Health is working with local public health departments to enact new tobacco regulations and enforcement policies. The following MetroWest communities have already raised the age of minimum purchase to 21:

New Report Captures 10 Years of Foundation Progress on Adolescent Health Issues

The greatest threat to the health of MetroWest adolescents is not illness or chronic disease. It is the consequences of risky behaviors that can lead to injury, disability, social problems and even death. Since the MetroWest Health Foundation was founded, it has had an interest in keeping children and adolescents safe in their communities. 

In its first five years of grantmaking, the foundation funded a variety of responsive projects focused on youth, such as self-injury and suicide prevention training for school personnel, a crisis stabilization program for deaf students, and the creation of several wellness centers in schools. Then in 2004, the foundation launched its first major proactive initiative, the Youth Substance Abuse Initiative and in 2008 the foundation reinforced its interest in youth health by establishing adolescent mental health as one of its three priority areas.

As an extension of its work in the area of adolescent health, the trustees of the foundation made a commitment in 2006 to conduct the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey every two years for a total of ten years. Based on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, this census survey is now implemented in every middle and high school in the foundation's 25-town region. The survey data provides invaluable insight for schools and communities about the behavior of its adolescents. For the foundation, it has been used to help determine priority areas as well as measure the success of our funding initiatives.

As we come to the conclusion of the initial ten-year commitment, it seems like an ideal time to reflect on the foundation's impact in risk behaviors addressed in the health survey. This "report card" looks at data from four areas - bullying, mental health, substance use and sexual behaviors - and discusses the foundation's efforts and impact. In doing so, we do not imply causation but rather seek to explore our contribution to any changes in behaviors.

An overall grade is provided for each of the four initiative areas based on the level of improvement in the data at the grantee and regional levels. Progress has been very good in the four areas:

Bullying - Significant Improvement
Mental Health - In Progress
Sexual Behavior - Moderate Improvement
Substance Use - Significant Improvement

Click here to read the full report.

Tools You Can Use: Health Literacy

Did you ever forget what your doctor told you once you left the office? Or, didn't really understand all the medical lingo you heard?  

More and more of us need help with "health literacy" - defined by the US Department of Health & Human Services as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions. It is easy to understand why only 12% of Americans are considered to be health literate.

The MetroWest Racial & Ethnic Disparities Workgroup has been working to increase the health literacy of the region. Last fall, the workgroup sponsored a forum on health literacy which highlighted what providers could do to help patients become more literate through tools like "Talk Back" or through the use of patient navigators. Now the workgroup has assembled a list of curated online resources designed to assist both providers and consumers. The site has links to over fifteen websites that offer tools and resources that can better prepare patients for health care visits.   

To check out the latest resources from the workgroup, go to the Strengthening the Field section of our website and click on Health Literacy

MetroWest Prevention & Wellness Partnership is Transforming Patient Care

A recent meeting of the Advisory Council for the 
MetroWest Prevention & Wellness Partnership highlighted the progress the Partnership is making linking clinical and community services to improve patient care. 

The advisory council heard from representatives of Charles River Medical Associates, a large physician group practice participating in the project.  Primary care physicians within this practice are screening older adults for fall risk at 11 sites across MetroWest. Patients that are identified to be at risk for falling are referred to and enrolled in evidence-based programs in the community. These programs include education workshops that reduce the fear of falling (A Matter of Balance), exercise programs to increase strength and balance (Tai Chiand home safety evaluations to reduce fall hazards in the home.  
Community partnerprovide feedback to Charles River's referral coordinator to keep physicians informed about their patient's progress in community programs. Since March, Charles River has referred 76 patients to the Partnership's programs.  The Partnership is also launching similar initiatives to address pediatric asthma, hypertension, and tobacco use. 
The MetroWest Prevention & Wellness Partnership is one of nine projects funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health through the Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund. These projects will be testing how formal partnerships between clinical providers and community organizations can improve health outcomes and reduce the cost of care.  The MetroWest Health Foundation is providing ten percent matching funds to the MetroWest Partnership, serving Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough and Framingham. 
For more information about the MetroWest Prevention and Wellness Partnership, contact Alex DePalo, Project Coordinator, Town of Hudson Health Department, (978) 568-9658.  
MetroWest Health Foundation
161 Worcester Road, Suite 202
Framingham, MA 01701

T: 508.879.7625
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MetroWest Health Foundation | 161 Worcester Road | Suite 202 | Framingham | MA | 01701

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