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Healthy Children Task Force
A COALITION DEVOTED TO PROMOTING CHILDREN’S HEALTH IN CAMBRIDGE
Co-Chairs: Marc McGovern, City Councilor, City of Cambridge
Dr. Avra Goldman, Family Medicine, Cambridge Health Alliance
About the HCTF
The Healthy Children Task Force (HCTF) is a Cambridge based community coalition organized in 1990 to promote the health of children in Cambridge. The meetings are chaired by Dr. David Link, Chief of Pediatrics at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Mt. Auburn Hospital, and Henrietta Davis, Mayor of Cambridge. It is staffed by the Institute for Community Health. Participants include people from the school department, human service agencies, parents, Cambridge community members, graduate students, the health and public health professions and local government. The purpose of the task force is to build community capacity to address health issues affecting Cambridge children and their families, through resource, program and policy development, and education, evaluation and research. Taskforce participants work individually within their organization and collaboratively with other HCTF members to implement the “work” identified by the group. The priorities for the past several years have focused on promoting mental health, healthy eating and active living – with a particular emphasis on the intersection of these issues with school achievement.
Over the course of the last two decades, HCTF has celebrated numerous successes in nutrition (food service, gardening, local foods), physical activity (PE enhancement, parks and playgrounds, walk to school, handbook of physical activities in Cambridge), physical inactivity (Turn off TV, other TV work) programming; obesity prevention: (5-2-1 promotion, screening, programming, policy, handbook of clinical obesity services); dental screening and clinical program development; mental health visioning and programming (after school programs, wellness campaigns, centralized lists of services, grant development).
Subcommittees: Currently, three HCTF subcommittees meet regularly to focus on specific priorities:
- 5-2-1 Subcommittee: The 5-2-1 group is a long-standing group (since 1999) that addresses healthy eating and physical activity. It is co-chaired by Josephine Wendel (CPHD) and Kim DeAndrade (CPSD).
- Mental Health Subcommittee: Since about 2003, the mental health subcommittee has evolved – it is currently chaired by Chandra Banks (CPSD), with a constituent base of high school students, and is largely dedicated to promoting mental wellness.
- Trauma Subcommittee: Most recently, (2010/11) the Trauma Subcommittee (co-chaired by Mayor Henrietta Davis and School Committee member Alice Turkel) is focused on supporting children and families who have been affected by trauma.
Focus of the 2011-2012 HCTF
To gear up for the implementation of the school department’s Innovation Agenda, the HCTF overarching theme for the 2011-2012 season was “Health and school success – A Focus on middle school aged children to support the CPS Innovation Agenda”. In addition to explicitly focusing on health and wellness issues that are salient to middle school aged children and their families, the group also discussed other pertinent issues of interest. Below are some of the highlights from the HCTF 2011-2012 season:
- At the start of the 2011-2012 year, the HCTF reviewed the Cambridge Middle School Survey to better understand how to use data to inform the topical directions of the group. An epidemiologist from the Cambridge Public Health Department gave an overview of the survey, highlighting trends and implications of the data for Cambridge Middle School Students.
- As healthy eating and physical activity has been a long standing interest of the HCTF, the Healthy Eating and Living Project (HELP) shared some of its work in Cambridge around persistent weight disparities and some of the health issues of African American middle school students and their families.
- The Men’s Health League shared their program’s mission and success with the HCTF, highlighting the current health needs of men of color in Cambridge and potential opportunities to collaborate with the HCTF, particularly around the issue of fatherhood.
- In January of 2012, just has the MBTA released several proposed service reduction and fare increases, the Director of Development of the MBTA and a representative from Green Streets reached out to the HCTF to understand specifically how the proposed MBTA service reduction and fare increases would affect the health and transportation options of Cambridge students.
- As active transportation is a key interest of this group, the Program Manager of Environmental and Transportation Planning at the Cambridge Community Development Department supplemented the MBTA session and shared some of the ongoing efforts in Cambridge to promote active transportation for Cambridge children and their families, highlighting ways in which the HCTF can support these initiatives.
- The 5-2-1 HCTF sub-committee shared some of their ongoing efforts and initiatives illustrating major milestones and trends in swimming among CRLS students.
- The HCTF mental health sub-committee has been spearheading conversations and community forums focused on the school-to-prison pipeline by highlighting data from Cambridge Public Schools on suspension and disciplinary referral. Members of the “Next Big Thing” and several CRLS high school students that serve as circle keepers and are members of the Mental Health subcommittee shared some of their insights and experiences with this restorative justice project with the HCTF, highlighting specific recommendations and efforts that the HCTF can help support regarding the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Additionally, the Director of Foundation Relations and Special Projects at the Children’s Defense Fund provided national statistics on the school-to-prison pipeline highlighting differential rates of suspension and disciplinary referral across racial/ethnic groups.
- Our last meeting of the 2011-2012 season, will focus on the 2012 Farm Bill and Cambridge School Food. The Director of Cambridge School Food will discuss changes to Cambridge school good given the recent federal and local updates to school food guidelines. Additionally, the Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic will discuss the 2012 National Farm Bill re-authorization and its implications on Cambridge School Food.
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