HKHC: Somerville, Massachusetts


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

Shape Up Somerville pursued greater engagement of immigrants and youth by creating structured initiatives with established community partners who serve these groups, and by supporting them with contracts to support their time and help build their capacity. In addition to accomplishing its engagement goals, this approach resulted in increased support for a mobile farmers’ market, created a health and civic engagement ESL curriculum, improved park design and established new systems within city government to contract with community-based organizations in the future.

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November 2013

Somerville is a small, highly diverse and densely-populated city that abuts Boston. For much of a decade, the city has been at the forefront of initiatives promoting healthy eating and active living. These have been propelled by an engaged community, a highly supportive mayor and many public and private partners. Somerville continues to receive national attention for its innovative efforts to combat obesity and to advance a healthy lifestyle.

Under Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s leadership, the city and its partners have worked to create and maintain Shape Up Somerville (SUS), a campaign to improve access to affordable healthy foods and to increase opportunities for physical activity. They used the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities funding to expand Shape Up Somerville (SUS) across a full range of disciplines within local government, improve community engagement to ensure it is not just a top-down initiative, and emphasize supports for children and families at-risk and in underserved neighborhoods like Winter Hill and East Somerville.

Even in Somerville, there is still a lot of work to do. “The challenge will be to think this out for the long term and figure how to sustain the culture change in the years and decades ahead,” said mayor aide Jesse Baker.

Key accomplishments include:

Health Department Director, Paulette Renault-Caragianes summed it up well. “This is now imbedded in the DNA of our government and much of our community.”