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Health Equity Agenda To Improve Life Expectancy Announced

New multi-sector partnership between the City, the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Community Health Collaborative, and $10 million investment from Atrius Health Equity Foundation.

Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) today announced a new long-term health equity agenda to improve life expectancy, reduce racial and ethnic disparities, and help all residents live longer and healthier lives. BPHC's Health of Boston 2023 report on Mortality and Life Expectancy found stark differences in average life expectancy among neighborhoods, the most striking being a 23-year difference between those who live in a part of Back Bay compared to those who live two miles away near Nubian Square in Roxbury. New BPHC data show that while life expectancy in Boston has overall rebounded since the COVID-19 pandemic, the racial gap has widened. In 2019, Black residents had an average life expectancy of 77 years, which was four years less than white residents, while in 2023, Black residents had an average life expectancy of 76 years, six years less than white residents. To improve life expectancy and reduce racial and ethnic gaps, BPHC is urgently encouraging organizations to partner with the Commission to advance health equity.  

“I’m thrilled that Boston is launching this first ever public health agenda backed up by community collaboration and resources,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Creating opportunities so that every resident has access to healthy food, livable communities, and access to healthcare are important to ensuring every resident feels at home in Boston. I’m so grateful to the Boston Public Health Commission, Atrius Health Equity Foundation, and all of our partners for their commitment to improving the lives of our residents.”

The Commission’s Live Long and Well health equity agenda focuses on three of the leading causes of premature mortality in Boston: cardiometabolic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and other related disorders; cancers of the breast, cervix, colon, prostate, and lung; and unintentional drug overdoses. The agenda also emphasizes the importance of infant and maternal health, older adult health, and mental and behavioral health.  

Today’s announcement identified the first priority area as cardiometabolic diseases, which are among the top five leading causes of death before the age of 65 in Boston and disproportionately impact communities of color. According to BPHC’s Health of Boston 2023 reports, compared to white residents, Black residents died of heart disease at a 37% higher rate; Black residents died of diabetes at a 220% higher rate; and Latine residents died of diabetes at a 80% higher rate. Social and economic factors such as poverty, insufficient housing, and food insecurity make it significantly more likely for a person to develop poorer health outcomes, including cardiometabolic diseases. 

“Boston is a city that is rich with high quality health care resources. Yet, we have long-standing gaps in life expectancy and other health outcomes by race, ethnicity and neighborhood,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “In order to close these gaps, we need to focus on drivers of poor health that exist outside the walls of health care institutions, like poverty and economic inequality. This will require a collaborative, whole-of-society, multi-sector approach. I want to thank Atrius Health Equity Foundation for their investment that I hope will catalyze more new partnerships to improve health and well-being for all in our city.”  

The Boston Community Health Collaborative (BCHC) –which is facilitated by BPHC and convenes City departments, public health, healthcare, community based organizations, and Boston residents – developed a community health improvement plan that identified economic mobility and inclusion as a critical strategy to improve health. To support this, Atrius Health Equity Foundation has committed $10 million for community-led coalitions to improve financial wellbeing in communities with poor cardiometabolic health outcomes. This investment makes the City of Boston, BPHC, BCHC, and Atrius Health Equity Foundation the first multi-sector partnership in the Live Long and Well agenda.

“We hear from communities across Eastern Massachusetts how economic opportunity is foundational for health and well-being. Our investment recognizes the deep connection between health and wealth and aims to support communities in creating the conditions that enable everyone to thrive,” said Dr. Ann Hwang, President of the Atrius Health Equity Foundation. “We are thrilled to partner with the Mayor, the City of Boston, the Boston Public Health Commission, and the Boston Community Health Collaborative, all of whom have shown tremendous leadership in advancing community priorities for better health.” 

“Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Wu and the Boston Public Health Commission, our work as the Collaborative has flourished and is now resulting in a transformative $10 million dollar investment by Atrius Health Equity Foundation, said Magnolia Contreras, Vice-President of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Co-Chair of the Boston Community Health Collaborative. "This partnership is a testament to our shared commitment, and this investment will go directly to issues raised by our community members who are most impacted by life expectancy disparities.” 

To execute on this work, a request for proposals will be developed collaboratively and organizations will be able to apply as early as this fall. This partnership will help residents, especially those who are most at-risk for cardiometabolic diseases, meet basic needs, have more access to financial supports and wealth-building opportunities, and navigate complex healthcare and social support systems. This will improve financial stability, mental health, stress, and cardiometabolic health for residents across Boston.

Additionally, the Boston Public Health Commission runs several existing programs and initiatives to prevent cardiometabolic diseases. The Commission’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Division promotes screenings for early detection of disease and partners with other City departments to give residents more access to healthy foods and physical activity. Programs include the Boston Parks Summer Fitness Series, Healthy Boston Nutrition Education, Boston Safe Routes to School, and the Boston Healthy Childcare Initiative.   

The Commission is currently working on a report detailing the Live Long and Well agenda that will be published later this year. Learn more and track updates at boston.gov/live-long

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