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As we head into 2020, it’s a good time to look back and take stock of what was a very busy 2019, working with our partners across Massachusetts to promote and protect the health and well-being of all our residents. Thank you to all of the organizations and individuals who partnered with us throughout the year in making possible these key accomplishments in public health.

Massachusetts led the nation on tobacco control, passing the nation’s most comprehensive tobacco control legislation. DPH took the lead on investigating emergent lung disease, collecting and analyzing data, drafting policy, developing regulations and enforcement guidance, and continuing to expand and publicize cessation resources. These efforts will go a long way toward protecting public health and preventing a new generation of young people from becoming addicted to nicotine.

We kept a focus on the opioid epidemic: Massachusetts has seen opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts continue to decline, falling an estimated 6 percent in the first nine months of 2019 compared to the first nine months of 2018. Only a handful of states have seen a similar stabilization or decline. We also worked closely with the Executive Office of Public Safety, County Houses of Correction and the Department of Corrections to pilot a program to increase access to medication for opioid use disorder to incarcerated individuals – a program seen as a national model that we hope to replicate. And all medical schools in Massachusetts now offer training for the DEA-X buprenorphine prescribing waiver for medical students to receive on graduation. This training, embedded in med school curricula, means all students graduating from medical schools in Massachusetts will be prepared to treat opioid use disorder. 

DPH protected reproductive health services in Massachusetts: DPH worked for more than a year and a half on efforts to successfully protect family planning services known as Title X. These efforts, and the Baker Administration’s allocation of millions of dollars, ensured no disruption of these important services for thousands of low-income individuals, showing the nation that Massachusetts fully supports women’s reproductive health care and family planning services.

Massachusetts has the highest rates of child vaccination in the nation: Massachusetts has the nation’s highest childhood vaccination rate (98 percent) for measles, mumps, and rubella in the country, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the National Immunization Survey.

DPH led the state’s response to a very active year for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE): The 2019 season was especially active for EEE in which Massachusetts had multiple human cases of this serious mosquito-borne disease. Our EEE surveillance, tracking, response, and communication represented an enormous collaborative effort across state agencies in cooperation with our local boards of health, community, and legislative partners. DPH is now at work with our partners to plan and prepare for the 2020 arbovirus season.

We strengthened regulations to prevent child lead poisoning: DPH changed its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention regulations to lower the blood lead level of children considered to have lead poisoning, established a blood lead level of concern, streamlined de-leading practices, and require blood lead screening for children entering day care or pre-K (instead of just at kindergarten).

DPH launched a Gun Violence Prevention Program, taking a public health approach. In Massachusetts, firearms are the cause of death in 80 percent of youth homicides. This year we launched a program to examine gun violence through a public health lens, funding 10 communities to focus on young people ages 10-24 and address disparities in neighborhoods with higher rates of gun violence.

We continued to turn data into action: DPH launched the Population Health Information Tool (PHIT) featuring more than 33 datasets and an innovative way to use public health data to identify population health needs and opportunities to eliminate health inequities with the use of the community Social Determinants of Health reports.

We introduced a new model to deliver care and services to patients in an out-of-hospital environment, usually the patient’s home: The new Mobile Integrated Health Program enables partnerships between healthcare entities and providers to deliver care and services outside a hospital. For example, EMS personnel can assess patients, perform ECGs and lab tests, communicate with primary care clinicians, and administer medications that would otherwise require hospitalization.

DPH created a new resource to help prepare for emergencies: DPH created the Emergency Preparedness Populations Planning Tool which provides summarized data and information on disability, transportation, age, poverty, and limited English proficiency along with mapping of critical infrastructure for every community in the Commonwealth. It centrally locates this data for the first time and lets users customize the information they want to see, enabling community planning.

This was indeed a busy and active year, and DPH thanks our partners once again for continuing to work with us to improve public health in the Commonwealth into the new year and beyond.

Written By:

Communications Director at the Department of Public Health

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