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The March meeting of the Public Health Council featured a new Chair, the consideration of one Determination of Need (DoN) request, and several informational presentations to the Council on a key DPH community initiative.

Dr. Monica Bharel, the recently appointed DPH Commissioner chaired her first meeting of the Public Health Council. Dr. Bharel remarked how excited she was to have the opportunity to work with everyone and further the Department’s goal of improving the health of all Massachusetts residents as well as discussing her background.

Next, the Council took up a request from Boston Medical Center that involved changes in the scope, cost, and financing of the project that will consolidate the Hospital’s clinical services on its Menino Campus. The original request came before the Council in April 2014. However, during the planning stages of the project, the BMC identified a number of additional changes in the scope of the project. It also determined— from more precise cost estimation and contractor bids— that the previous estimate had significantly understated the true cost of the project. After a short discussion the Council voted favorably to allow the DoN.

Following this was a presentation from WIC updating the Council about the implementation of the WIC card, which was rolled out in Massachusetts last fall.  Replacing the former WIC checks with a credit card allows WIC participants to pay for their purchase just like other shoppers, rolls the benefits for all participants in the household onto one card, automatically accesses the quantities and types of food that can be purchased, allows shoppers to pay for all their items at one time instead of separating out WIC purchases from other items, and allows for flexibility when shopping.  These features have been well received by participants and have resulted in 91% of participants redeeming an item on their card, up from 84%.  Additionally the cards help to erase the stigma once associated with the WIC checks and provide care in a dignify way.

Next the Office of Data Management and Outcomes Assessment gave a presentation on progress toward meeting their goals of access to more (real-time) data, quicker report turnaround, improving data access and review processes, facilitating quality improvement and performance management, and improving data infrastructure.

Finally, the Suicide Prevention Program gave an overview of suicides in Massachusetts including numbers by age group and gender, methods chosen, and circumstances associated with an attempt.  Next was a discussion of the efforts being undertaken to reduce the numbers of attempts.  This includes raising awareness through the promotion of a website aimed at men age 35-64 (the most at-risk group), collaborations with state and local partners, and education and training.

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