Boston receives $4.6 million federal grant to reverse obesity crisis in blacks and Hispanics

In an effort to reduce the obesity surge that’s particularly acute in the city’s black and Hispanic residents, the city of Boston was been awarded $4.6 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to initiate exercise and nutrition programs in low-income communities, Mayor Thomas Menino announced on Thursday.

Boston and Los Angeles were the only two cities that received the three-year grant, and Menino said in a statement that it will allow the city — under the direction of the Boston Public Health Commission — to expand on the “comprehensive approach’’ it was already taking to address health disparities such as the Boston Moves for Health initiative that offers free exercise classes and cooking workshops.


The grant money will be directed towards Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, East Boston, and Hyde Park and will involve encouraging biking by providing subsidized memberships for low-income residents in the city’s Hubway bikeshare system. (Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to use the system than white residents.)

Children in these areas will also have more access to physical activity programs through a partnership with the YMCA, and efforts will be made to reduce sugary drinks and increase water consumption at afterschool programs and youth sports leagues games.

Parks and outdoor recreation spaces will be another target with a focus on increasing their safety and residents’ access to them.

The Harvard School of Public Health will provide technical expertise to identify interventions that previous research has shown to be most successful at closing the racial gap in obesity rates.

As part of a separate initiative to improve dietary practices in low income communities, the non-profit Oldways foundation is offering six free cooking classes in Roxbury beginning on October 15th at the Boston Housing Authority at 125 Armory Street. The classes will focus on ways to incorporate a “Taste of African Heritage’’ through cooking using spices and ingredients from the Carribean, Latin America, and the American South.

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