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Bowdoin Street Health Center awarded 2013 Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care in a Workplace Setting

Posted by Patrick Rosso  November 21, 2013 11:32 AM

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The Bowdoin Street Health Center was recently awarded the 2013 Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care in a Workplace Setting.

The prize seeks to highlight “forward-thinking” organizations that aim to improve primary care and the health of Boston’s residents.

“Boston has led the way in addressing so many public health concerns, and we couldn’t do it without our excellent community partners,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement.

The Dorchester-based organization was selected because of its Bowdoin Workplace Wellness Challenge, which tasked employees with taking command of their own health, according to a release from the organization.

Born out of the Boston Moves for Health initiative, a site-specific wellness course was developed by employees Maura Ackerman and Jen French to help staffers adopt healthier lifestyle habits both at work and at home.

“They really exceeded all expectations,” Adela Margules, the executive director of the center, said in a statement. “Their program not only got people focused on healthy behaviors, it also brought us together as staff and got us thinking about what’s possible with patients down the road.”

Covering everything from proper eating to the importance of sleep, the Bowdoin program aimed to make healthy living both easy and convenient.

“We really wanted to meet people where they were at,” French, the center’s health and wellness coach, said in a statement.

A healthy dose of competition was also added to the mix as the two formed teams within the workplace to see which group could log the most steps. The step competition was based off a challenge by Boston Moves for Health to log enough steps to virtually walk the 1,500-miles from Boston to Miami.

Collectively the center’s staff logged 18.5 million steps, the equivalent of 9,429 miles.

“From Miami we walked to New Orleans and across Texas,” Ackerman, the center’s healthy food access coordinator, said in a statement. “Then we walked to Los Angeles where we turned south and walked down the Baja Peninsula and all the way to Panama.”

Although it was the center’s staff who saw the biggest benefit from the initiative, Margules said lessons can be taken from the program that will benefit the community that surrounds the center.

“This neighborhood has some of the highest incidences of obesity, diabetes and heart disease of any part of the city,” Margules, said in a statement. “We’re hoping we can help our families achieve small behavior changes that can impact their health and potentially prevent them from getting chronic disease, or if they have chronic disease, help them manage it better.”

The program also served as a backdrop for the organization’s planned creation of a Wellness Center, which will provide area residents with information about healthy eating and exercise.

“If we can do it with our own staff, we can do it with patients,” Margules added.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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