Martha Eliot Health Center
Martha Eliot Health Center and Bromley-Heath: a special community partnership
Six year old Curtis Plump learned that it's most important to brush your teeth at night. Six year old Kristina Gonzalez, discovered the thrill of gardening by planting her own squash seed to take home to grow. Nine-year-old Kenya Maxwell, sprinted around the bases during a kickball game and played with the hoola-hoop to work up a sweat.
Over the summer, these local youth, along with dozens of others, enjoyed a wide range of fun, healthy, educational activities thanks to a summer partnership between Martha Eliot Health Center and its neighbor Bromley Heath, a public housing development. Last year, MEHC and Children's began offering summer activities to youth living in Bromley Heath. This summer's activities focused on fitness, nutrition, dental care, anger management, bullying and "sexting." MEHC also participated in Bromley Heath's Family Weekend event, which include a Youth Day and Family Day.
The support of the summer program is part of a bigger effort by MEHC to work in partnership with Bromley Heath in order to improve the health of the local community, according to Tarsha Weaver, MEHC's, Interim Administrator, and Administration & Operations Manager.
"We created specific programs, not based on what we felt they needed, but rather on what they told us they needed," Weaver said. "We have listened. We are proud of our partnership with Bromley Heath to improve the health of our community."
Jacqui Furtado, program director, Bromley Heath Tenant Management Corporation, who lived in the housing development for many years, runs the summer program. The 8-week program provides services to 72 kids and is staffed by 25 summer youth workers. According to Furtado, the summer program has served as an excellent vehicle to bring together Bromley and MEHC to work on a common goal.
"We have higher rates of diabetes and obesity. Physical fitness has been cut in our schools. Parents are working two jobs and do not have time to cook healthy foods so the kids are eating fast food," Furtado said. "MEHC and Children's have never let us down. They have been extremely helpful. This is a true community effort." Bromley Heath's summer program ended with Field Day at Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, where children, ages 8 - 15, enjoyed a full day of fitness, fun and healthy eating. MEHC staff organized games, led exercises, served a healthy lunch and treated children to ice-cream.
According to Laura Sprauer, nutritionist, MEHC, who led a nutrition workshop earlier in the summer, the intent of the day was to show that exercise and fitness can be fun.
"This is a way to expose the kids to open green spaces," she says. It's about getting kids outside. It doesn’t have to be organized sports. The message to parents is to explore with your kids and take advantage of green spaces."