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Live Blogging: 2009 Dorchester Health Community Meeting

I’m here at the Great Hall in Codman Sqaure, officially live blogging the “2009 Health of South Boston (Codman Square) Community Meeting.

6:10 The Great Hall is packed…I mean, super packed. People are eating, talking, looking for places to sit. Really diverse crowd, both age-wise and racially.

6:24 Social Hour continuing. People keep pouring in. Very nice to see so many people out for such an important event. Thanks to Haley House for the catering.

6:34 We’re starting. Forgive me in advance, but I don’t know any of the speaker’s names. Opening by the President of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council.

6:37 Boston Health Commissioner is speaking. Everyone is impressed with the turnout…especially the younger people. So am I. Tons of thanks and shoutouts for all the officials and staff.

6:40 “This is not the whole story.” Good to know, because it’s looking like it’s going to be bleak. Starting with basic stats about South Dorchester: lots of old buildings and golf courses, pretty young population (25-44 = 36%, 18-24 = 16%), primarily African American, 18% below poverty, 23% without GED or high school diploma. Basically, South Dorchester is pretty similar to Boston’s demographics.

6:48 Health disparities vs. health inequities: taking a look at how to get people resources that they need to be healthy, regardless of “his or her social position of other socially determined circumstance.”

6:52 Racism and health. Crowd starts to get that hum of agreement on discontent.

6:54 Map of resources in South Boston – Boys and Girls Clubs, Community Centers, YMCAs, libraries, churches. There are 88 houses of worship in Dorchester. I’m really not that surprised. Next up, a map of all the food assets in the area. 13 food pantries, 3 markets and 28 community gardens in Dorchester. 28 community gardens?! Really? I had no idea!

6:56 Map of all bike trails, green open spaces, parks, and other physical assets. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t take advantage of any of this stuff. ::puts on to-do list for next spring::

6:58 Commissioner finishes up, after starting to go into the next presentation. I love her enthusiasm.

6:59 Agenda for the night – substance abuse, gun control and obesity. Theme for the night: “It’s not OK” and we need to start coming up with solutions.

7:00 New speaker, Andy with the Substance Abuse Coalition. According to his stats, while a good deal of youth are not drinking, enough are that we should be concerned. These stats also show that kids think that their friends are drinking to fit in, or because of peer pressure. It’s all about perception that’s introducing our kids to alcoholism.

7:07 Assignment for discussion: What can we do to change the perception of drinking? How do things like race, culture, media and availability (from home, parents, and package stores) play into things?

7:11 Ideas from my table: In the same way that we use media to entice people to drink, we should use it to discuss the dangers of alcoholism and hold media outlets accountable. “Counter-advertising”. Why is the government so quick to issue liquor licenses? Responsibility of liquor stores to not serve people who are obviously intoxicated. A great observation: We don’t give licenses to drug dealers to do business in our neighborhoods, but their affect is just as negative as a liquor store. Need for more programs and productive alternatives for teens and kids. I dunno. I think that we need to look more at families and personal choices. You can’t blame the media for all of the choices that teens make. That’s the problem that we have now. A whole generation of kids who don’t feel responsible for their choices.

7:26 Gun violence. There’s a memorial quilt on display with buttons showing teens that we’ve lost from gun violence. Speaker lost her son 16 yrs ago due to gun violence from a gang shootout. “And still 16 years later, we’re talking about violence.”

7:30 “It starts with self”. So true. This month is “Survivors of Homicide Awareness Month” (Nov. 20-Dec. 20). I had no idea.

7:33 Map showing that there were 4 homicides and 95 guns recovered since 2005 in Codman Square. That’s scary.

7:35 Questions at my table: “Do you feel safe in your community?” I feel bad answering his question, because I live in Ashmont Hill. Is that wrong? My table generally feels safe, but wants the gun trafficking to stop. “Where do the guns come from?” Our neighbors from the north and south with more relaxed gun laws, but we can’t set up roadblocks to search every car. People are angry about this issue. Tired of meetings that will just lead to more meetings and nothing happens. Our moderator is super effective: “Every time a child in our community dies from gun violence, the community fails.” Another great quote: “It’s not that you have to stop guns from having legs.” Getting back to community, where we know each other and can hold each other accountable. I love it!

7:47 Final topic: Diabetes and obesity with Tara, Al (@alwillis) and Keyona (Thank goodness for nametags!)

7:49 27% of South Dorchester residents in 2005/06 are obese. Boston at a whole is at 18%.

7:54 What happens when you eat a cheeseburger: Lipocytes fill up with fat and get together and become a whole other organ in your body, secreting hormones that increase your blood pressure, cause diabetes, narrow arteries, cause blood clots and encourage inflammation. This is a super real look at what fat does to your body, not fooling around.

7:57 South Dorchester is one of the highest neighborhoods in the city in term of hospitalization due to diabetes or heart disease. In fact, it’s interesting to note that there’s a ring in Boston of general unhealthiness including Fenway, Southie, Roxbury and North and South Dorchester.

8:00 Great quote:”We can’t solve problems but using the same kind of thinking we used when we made them.” “Man in the Mirror” in running in my head: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.”

8:03 Physical exercise. Put you feet on the floor. Hands on lap. Now, change your awareness. Room already feels more peaceful. Basically, the things that we focus on change our awareness and can change our lives. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Awww…I missed it because I was typing.

8:06 Question at the table: “Why does Dorchester suffer from these health issues?” It begins with us believing that we’re worth it, and promoting each other and uplifting each other. Health Commissioner brings up low quality, not-so-healthy school lunches in Boston schools compared to other districts in other suburban areas. Quality is important, healthy eating needs to be taught. Good point: There’s outrage when someone is shot, but when someone dies from a stroke or diabetes, there is not as much anger.

8:15 Meeting closing. Thanks for coming. Round of applause. Good to know that all of the information and ideas compiled tonight will be given to the Boston Health Commissioner and she will be back to talk with the community about ideas. And…we’re done!

Well, that seemed effective. It’s good to see so many people come together to make changes in Codman Square. I love this little neighborhood. I’d love to see it thrive.



4 thoughts on “Live Blogging: 2009 Dorchester Health Community Meeting

  1. Thank you for posting this! Great resource.

    Posted by Kristie | December 3, 2009, 10:25 pm
  2. Thank you for providing this. It is a great service. I was not able to attend and now feel like I was there! I find Andy comments fasinating regarding perception and our misperceptions regarding alcohol use.it is also wonderful to highlight some of the positives like all the community gardens. Your comment about youth not feeling personal responsibility is intriguing. Do others have insight on this?

    Posted by Tracy | December 5, 2009, 7:43 am


  1. Pingback: Live Blogging: Codman Square Neighborhood Council Meeting (1/2010) « social.butterfly.experiment - January 7, 2010

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