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Kennedy fights to prevent asthma and diabetes

Mayor Judith Flannagan Kennedy

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is one of nine Bay State mayors and more than 200 community and health leaders who urged lawmakers to reauthorize a $60 million state trust fund to help prevent diabetes and asthma.

Created four years ago, the first-in-the-nation Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund is paid for by a fee on health insurers and large hospitals to support partnerships in areas with high amounts of preventable health conditions among low-income families and people of color. Nearly one million people are served by the fund.

“Funding from the Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund is most impactful in Lynn and urban municipalities,” Kennedy told The Item. “We have seen the trust’s resources put to extremely good use at the Lynn Community Health Center and other social-service agencies dedicated to keeping residents healthy and safe. I strongly support the state legislature continuing this innovative program, which represents an invaluable investment into the health and welfare of our citizens.”

In a letter to Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Northampton) and House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), the mayors wrote “Rates of chronic health conditions, many of which are preventable, continue to rise, consuming 86 percent of our national health care costs … The result is shorter lives, lower quality of life, reduced workplace productivity and missed school days, which hamper children’s educational achievement … Tackling these challenges requires more than just good clinical care, it depends on a robust investment in community-based prevention such as the Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund.”

The funding will expire next summer unless the Legislature and governor take action.

Health Care Financing Committee Senate Chair James Welch, who serves on the board that oversees the trust fund, told State House News that he has been “impressed with the progress and impact” and is “eager to explore opportunities with my colleagues to keep this important work moving forward.”

Through a spokesman, Gov. Charlie Baker declined to say whether he would sign the measure until the administration conducts an independent review of the fund. 

In addition to Kennedy, the mayors who signed on included Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Alex Marsh of Holyoke, Jon Mitchell of New Bedford, Richard Alcombright of North Adams, Linda Tyer of Pittsfield, Thomas Koch of Quincy, Joseph Petty of Worcester and Robert Hedlund of Weymouth, as did other local officials from Adams, Cambridge, Fall River, Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough, Stockbridge and Barnstable and Berkshire counties.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]

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