2017 Culture of Health Prize Winner: Chelsea, Massachusetts
Lifelong Chelsea, Massachusetts, resident Roseann Bongiovanni, the daughter and granddaughter of Italian immigrants, envisions an “emerald necklace” of parks, trails and salt marshes one day adorning the coastline of this city bounded on three sides by water.
She challenges the perception that Chelsea is just a gritty, densely populated, urban locale being choked by its industry and traffic and the health effects that go along with them.
To be sure, two busy thoroughfares cut through the city, which sits just across the Tobin Bridge from Boston. The Chelsea Creek waterfront is home to seven bulk petroleum storage terminals as well as salt waiting to be trucked to 300-plus municipalities in the region. And straddling the border of Chelsea and Everett, Massachusetts, is the New England Produce Center, whose 35 tenants sell fruits and vegetables that are distributed to stores throughout New England and beyond.
All of this activity means pollutants in Chelsea’s air exceed by 20 percent levels the EPA deems safe. The city has the highest asthma hospitalization rates in Massachusetts, and among the highest hospitalization rates for heart attacks and stroke.
But Bongiovanni, executive director of the environmental justice group GreenRoots, and others in the city are tackling these challenges collaboratively and aggressively, working to make Chelsea a greener place, and, therefore, a healthier one. Among the successes to date:
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