SHAPE UP SOMERVILLE
Building a Healthy Community Through Environmental Change
Shape Up Somerville (SUS) began in 2002 as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded three-year research study convened by Dr. Christina Economos and the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition along with Somerville community members, to prevent obesity in first through third graders through environmental change. The study resulted in demonstrable change, with data indicating improvement and healthier weight status for Somerville youth. Following the three-year study, Shape Up Somerville was adopted by the City of Somerville and has since continued to evolve as a comprehensive approach to build and support community-wide health, health equity, and social justice.
The current vision of SUS is a healthier and more equitable community for all who live, work, play, and age in Somerville by building healthy, equitable communities, in Somerville , through interdisciplinary partnerships, programming and food systems and active living policies changes.
The government embraced the essentials of community-based obesity prevention from the inception of Shape Up Somerville then incorporated the entire program in to its own Health Department. There have been upgrades to the school food service program, developed new and innovative physical activity programming, improvements for safer streets and more accessible ways for biking and walking, as well as renovated parks and open spaces.
Shape Up Somerville was selected as a NOW Bright Spot because of its work to address the health issue of childhood obesity through environmental change. Changing the community landscape, Shape Up Somerville partners were able to improve their built environment to be more supportive of physical activity and proper nutrition, making it easier for Somerville to have the healthy choice be the easy choice.
LEADERSHIP & COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE
Shape Up Somerville works towards its goals through collaborating with partners, creating environmental change, and advocating for social justice. SUS partners include: Somerville Public Schools, Somerville Homeless Coalition, Tufts University, Groundwork Somerville, The Welcome Project, Cambridge Health Alliance, Institute for Community Health, Cyclekids, and the City of Somerville.
There has been significant redesigning of the Somerville community through system change, partnerships, cross-collaboration, and government-based (originally Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded NGO) efforts.
The City of Somerville primarily has been responsible for the development of bike lanes, extension of the Community Path (for walking and biking), Open Streets Initiative (called SomerStreets), renovated and new parks and open spaces, dynamic activity spaces, a mobile farmers market, and a new urban agricultural ordinance.
The Shape Up Somerville Task Force began to meet to discuss relevant activities and projects, sustainability, other grant opportunities, and branding issue. The Task Force is made up of members from the Cambridge Health Alliance Community Affairs Department, the Somerville Department of Public Health, Somerville Public Schools, Tufts University, the Institute for Community Health, Groundwork Somerville, elected officials, the Mayor of Somerville’s Office, the Somerville Bike Committee, and other non-government organizations (NGOs).
Organizations and city departments have engaged marginalized residents and worked to identify barriers to food, physical activity, and healthy nutritional information. Through the food security coalition, Public School Department, Parks and Recreation, the Council on Aging and other groups there has been an alignment of goals and recommendations.
HOW IS SUCCESS MONITORED & ADJUSTMENTS MADE?
Community-generated data for evaluation is an innovation created, for the Shape Up Somerville program, by the Institute of Community Health, a Shape Up Somerville partner. This evaluation process allows for the expansion of efforts for resident physical fitness and nutrition improvements. The Shape Up Somerville program has evolved since its inception with data and community interwoven.
The Somerville government embraced the essentials of community-based obesity prevention from the inception of Shape Up Somerville and subsequently incorporated the entire program in to its own Health Department. There have been upgrades to the school food service program, developed new and innovative physical activity programming, improvements for safer streets and more accessible ways for biking and walking, and also renovated parks and open spaces.
EQUITY, ADVERSITY & THE EXPERIENCE OF TRAUMA
The Shape Up Somerville program and stakeholders focus on the social determinants of health by engaging at-risk populations such as senior citizens, immigrants, low-income families, and non-native English speakers.
As food insecurity in the community has increased, the SUS partners have increased their alignment of programming and services to incorporation supporting the Food Rescue System, the Mobile Farmers’ Markets, School Gardens and Farm to School program, the SUS Healthy Restaurant Program, improvements in the Public Schools Food Service Department, urban agriculture connections, and a City Worksite Wellness Initiative.