Each week, the Abington News is asking the three residents running for the board of health a question to help voters better understand them as candidates. Election Day is Saturday, April 24.
This week’s question was: What are the top three public health challenges facing the Town of Abington in the coming years, and how do you specifically propose to address them?
I know we’re all tired of hearing it at this point, but the biggest challenge to our town is going to continue to be the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing the strong working relationship I have with the Health Department, I propose to continue to support them in their endeavor to deliver vaccines locally, whether it be the current vaccination or any future ones that may be necessary. I also plan to continue with weekly Health Department Roundtables to keep the public informed.
I have had numerous conversations with our Director of Health, and one thing we have discussed at length is offering information and education on various health issues. Whether it be simply raising awareness through social media, utilizing Abington CAM to record informational videos or offering classes once in person gatherings are feasible, there is a lot of room for the Board of Health to work with the Health Department to provide resources for our community. I propose making the Board more accessible and interactive with our residents.
I would like to explore different ways for our Board to engage people and play a more active role in health and wellness.
One other challenge we face is access to mental health resources. The pandemic has really highlighted the need for mental health services, and I propose to explore what options the Board of Health, working with the Health Department, can offer the people of Abington.
At the end of the day, the Board is a regulatory body and it’s members are volunteers. But there are many ways we can utilize our collective talents to help the Board of Health become a vital, proactive part of the community and I am hoping to play a part in making that a reality.
First, I’d like to thank Rick Collins for the opportunity to address this question in the Abington News in pursuit of a seat on Abington Board of Health. My response draws on my combined experience in planning and community health initiatives over the past 10 years in the South Shore region. Specifically, my work with the Blue Hills Community Health Network Alliance (CHNA) as well as the Tri-CHNA in collaboration with South Shore Health Systems, and BID-Milton on the Board of Overseers and Community Benefits Advisory Council has prepared me well to respond to public health issues. The top three public health challenges I see are continued Covid response, access to health care; and healthy aging.
I commend our Health Director, Marty Golightly, and the Board of Health for their response to the COVID challenges our community has faced over the past year. The public communication efforts, advocacy at the State level for resources, and achievements such as vaccinating our teachers highlight the amazing work done for our Town over the past year. We are not, however, out of the woods of the pandemic and we must continue to respond to keep our community safe. I propose that we enhance our communication and advocacy efforts. I do believe those who have worked hard to make the Town more transparent have earned a well-deserved kudos; however, we can always improve. Measures to increase accessibility such as closed captioning on video, transcripts for audio, and alternative text for photos and graphics are needed to improve inclusion specifically for persons with disabilities but these measures enhance the communication for everyone. For example, when you can’t turn on audio to watch videos in certain situations, closed captioning can allow an individual to ascertain the message without turning on the audio feature. Enhancements such as these improve the effectiveness of media for all. Likewise, I propose that we enhance our state and federal advocacy efforts with increased communication with our elected officials. Communication will continue to be at the heart of COVID response.
I believe Abington has room to grow in providing access to health care within our borders. The health care industry in our community is made up of limited primary care providers, urgent care, home care, specialty care and addiction recovery. I recommend that we bring a community health center to Abington. Community health centers reduce barriers to quality care such as cost burden, lack of insurance, and distance. According to 2019 Census Data, 2.2% of Abington’s population are without health insurance, under age 65 years. This is just slightly under the State’s percentage of 3.5%. It is likely that this number is now higher due to the effects of the COVID economic crisis. Moreover, I witnessed that while Abington fought for access to vaccines from the State, neighboring communities were able to continue distribution at the local level due to capacity through Community health centers, illustrating them as an asset to communities. Increased access to care will improve our COVID response and our capacity as a Board of Health.
I see many conversations in the Abington dialogue about affordable senior housing, which is very encouraging. Census predictions state that by 2030, one of every five people in the US will be 65 or older and by 2035, the number of adults older than 65 will be great than the number of children under 18. According to 2019 Census Data, 14.9% of Abington’s population is persons 65 years and over. I propose that we become a designated Age-Friendly community through the AARP network which will help local leaders identify and understand community needs, enable changes that benefit people of all ages, and provide access to support and best practice materials. Such an initiative positions the Board of Health to collaborate across agencies to support public health.
To wrap up, I think it’s important for me to share again that the reason I want to serve Abington Board of Health is that I bring unique experience to the table. I mentioned in my proposals about community health centers, communication access planning, age-friendly communities, and advocacy. In my role as a Planner with the City of Quincy, I have worked on initiatives such as community health center partnership, communication access planning and age-friendly communities. I also have been an active advocate for bi-partisan federal programs through my participation with AmeriCorps Alums, Opportunity Nation, and National Community Development Association. I’m stepping up to run for the Board of Health to bring that experience to the table to benefit the community where I reside with my family. Thanks again to Rick Collins for the opportunity to share my thoughts and I humbly ask my Abington neighbors for their vote of confidence on April 24, 2021.