MetroWest Moves is a tri-community Mass in Motion initiative to facilitate opportunities for people who live, work, and play in Framingham, Hudson, and Marlborough to engage in healthy eating and active, smoke-free living. Because the causes of chronic disease and obesity are multi-faceted, the solution requires a broad-based approach that considers the environment. MetroWest Moves is not about introducing a new program. It’s about permanent community transformation: Changing the ways cities and towns grow and develop to accommodate healthier lifestyles.
These efforts require a steering committee made up of individuals representing public health as well as non-traditional health partners. MetroWest Moves has members from each community’s Board of Health as well as representatives from Planning, Economic Development, Community Development, the Department of Public Works, and the Conservation Commission. This tri-community partnership has engaged the services of JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc (JSI) to assist in the implementation of initiatives that encourage residents to be more active and lead healthier lifestyles.
The MetroWest group has taken some great first steps in launching the Mass in Motion initiative. In June, 2012 a kickoff event was held to inform the public and municipal leaders about the Community Transformation Grants (CTG) and introduce ways they can be involved. A follow-up event was held in January, 2013 to provide updates on MetroWest Moves’ activities and to provide community partners with a platform to share their good work.
Restaurants are a vital part of many communities’ economic bases and draw visitors from around the Metro Boston region. Local restaurants, rather than chain establishments, dominate the market in these municipalities. Partnering with local restaurants to offer healthier options in a healthy dining program will improve nutrition for residents and visitors. The goal of this initiative, by September 29, 2014, is to increase the number of full service restaurants in Framingham, Hudson, and Marlborough that offer and promote healthier dining options (including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lower sodium/no salt added meals, smaller portions) through an established healthy dining program. This strategy will improve residents’ access to healthy, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, increasing the number of people who consume the recommended amount of produce each day.
MetroWest Moves is working to recruit restaurants into the Healthy Dining program and has successfully recruited 15 restaurants. A list of participating restaurants can be found on their website.
There are roughly 24,000 jobs located in these communities, as such, the potential long-term impact of successful healthy worksite initiatives will help improve the wellbeing of many people. This initiative will focus on promoting the implementation of wellness policies such as municipal vending procurement of healthy foods to encourage healthier lifestyles. The goal of this initiative, by September 30, 2014, is to increase the number of worksites that offer and promote wellness initiatives in Framingham, Hudson, and Marlborough. This strategy will improve residents’ access to healthy, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables as well as access to physical activity opportunities, and support tobacco cessation strategies and policies.
MetroWest Moves has partnered with the MetroWest YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs share best practices related to healthy vending changes and has continued work to support these community based organizations on implementation of healthy vending at their sites. MetroWest Moves also hosted a free seminar on Massachusetts’ new tax credit for worksite wellness initiatives as well as presented model worksite wellness programs.
Establishing community design standards or “complete streets” can make streets safe for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and users of public transit. The goal of this initiative, by September 29, 2014, is to develop “Complete Streets” guidelines. This strategy will improve the health of all residents, with a particular benefit to carless residents, who are disproportionately low income.
MetroWest Moves, along with Bay State Roads, hosted a Complete Streets training for municipal staff in the three communities as well as other partners. The communities are currently having a healthy community design checklist developed, which includes a set of design elements and techniques that boards and agencies should consider when reviewing projects and/or developing new projects to support a pedestrian and bike friendly environment. Hudson and Marlborough recently kicked off a bicycle/pedestrian project with the aim of identifying all roadways where improvements could be made to encourage walking and biking. The hope is that bike facilities, sidewalks, and trail connections will then be phased in over the next few construction seasons.