This Massachusetts City Just Won a National Health Award

Boston Magazine by Jamie Ducharme

It snagged a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize.

It’s time for Chelsea to make some space in the trophy case.

The waterfront city is one of eight recipients of this year’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation(RWJF) Culture of Health Prize, an award given annually to communities dedicated to boosting population health and well-being.

While Chelsea struggles with its fair share of public health issues, including substance abuse, poverty, and obesity, the RWJF prize recognizes the city’s commitment to finding solutions, and the innovative ways community leaders are tackling ongoing challenges. Specifically, the city was recognized for the resources and protections it offers vulnerable populations, including immigrants and low-income residents; its fight against drug use and trauma; reductions in diesel fuel emissions; opening the city’s waterfront for public use; engaging youth in environmental and food justice projects; and, perhaps most importantly, for “ensuring Chelsea is a welcoming community for all.”

Chelsea, along with co-applicants Massachusetts General Hospital Chelsea and local environmental justice nonprofit GreenRoots, beat out 200 communities to win this honor. Leslie Aldrich, the associate director of Mass General’s Center for Community Health Improvement, says the recognition—and the accompanying $25,000 grant—is a testament to the city’s grit while chipping away at difficult public health battles.

“Being nationally recognized for this work, despite the many health challenges this community has faced and that still exist, is a reflection of the community’s resilience and commitment to one another,” Aldrich says in a statement. “The friendships and partnerships that have been forged in the effort to make Chelsea a healthier place to live are true and lasting and what make Chelsea such a unique community.”

“I am so very proud of the city and all of its nonprofit partners,” adds City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “This prestigious award from Robert Wood Johnson serves to confirm the incredible, collaborative work that occurs daily in this community to improve the health and well-being of its residents.”

Communities in Wisconsin, Kansas, Maryland, Virginia, California, New York, and Mississippi were also honored this year. But thanks to Chelsea’s win, Massachusetts is now home to the country’s most RWJF Culture of Health winners. Since the program began five years ago, Cambridge, Fall River, Everett, and Lawrence have all claimed the prize.

Read more about Chelsea’s efforts here.



GreenRoots, MGH Chelsea Healthcare Center and the City of Chelsea Massachusetts- Gov are proud to announce that Chelsea, MA is a recipient of the 2017 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation #CultureofHealthPrize.

We are honored to live and work in a city that comes together to improve the health and well being for everyone in our community. A special thank you to so many who committed countless hours to make this a reality! Click the link to learn more.

¡Si Se Puede!

How One Massachusetts City Came To Bear Environmental Burdens For The Region

New England Public Radio By Shannon Dooling 

Stephanie Alvarado tests the water temperature of the Chelsea Creek as part of a Green Roots ECO Crew project. CREDIT KATHLEEN DUBOS / WBUR

Stephanie Alvarado tests the water temperature of the Chelsea Creek as part of a Green Roots ECO Crew project.


Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change -- think New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. These areas suffer from poor air quality, increasing temperatures, and extreme weather.

In many of those same communities, residents already live among health hazards like fuel storage units and the toxic remains that come with them. In the city of Chelsea, Massachusetts, residents bear these burdens while much of New England benefits.

Standing along a three-mile stretch of the Chelsea Creek, Roseann Bongiovanni, a lifelong Chelsea resident, pointed out a few of the notable landmarks.

"That is the storage depot for 100 percent of the jet fuel that's used at Logan International Airport, 70 to 80 percent of the region's heating fuel -- so that's all of New England -- and road salt for 350 communities in the New England area," Bongiovanni said. 

Just down the way is the New England Produce Center, which in order to supply produce to all of New England, requires a steady stream of trucks coming in and out of the facility -- leaving behind emissions.

"So you'll see in Chelsea that we provide a lot of regional benefits but those burdens are on the backs, essentially, of Chelsea residents," Bongiovanni said.

Bongiovanni heads up an environmental justice group called Green Roots. The organization engages community members in a city where almost 21 percent of the residents live below the poverty line and 60 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino.

Chelsea resident Stephanie Alvarado, 17, is a member of the Green Roots ECO crew. The young people come together to learn more about the health and environmental hazards facing their city. The day we met, she and a fellow crew member were preparing for a community event to raise awareness about water quality in the creek.

For Alvarado, who's grown up in Chelsea, the work she does with Green Roots is personal.

"I have a lot of friends and family who do have asthma," Alvarado said. "It just sucks watching them walk for a long time and then having to pause and pull out their pump and just, you know take that medication. You know it's heartbreaking to see them having to go through that because of all the things that we are living in." 

Chelsea residents are living with things like air pollutants.

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