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Paul Giorgio: Making Worcester the Healthiest City in New England

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Three of the biggest Public health issues facing Worcester's youth are obesity, gun violence, and STD's, but we have a culture that does not allow us to discuss or solve these issues, believes Paul Giorgio.

Last week the City of Worcester launched a major public health innative, following up on one of Mayor Joe Petty’s goals laid out in his Inaugural Address. The goal is to make Worcester the healthiest city in New England by 2020. Public Health is far different from just a few short years ago and even more then when I was younger. Then, there was a nurse in every Public School. But also back then, we were more concerned about Polio, measles, the mumps and chicken pox.

Today, Public Health has a broader mission. Polio has all but been eradicated and most kids get immunized against the other childhood diseases.

A culture of silence

Today, the two biggest Public health issues facing children are obesity and gun violence. We can also throw in STD’s for good measure. But we have a culture that does not allow us to discuss or solve these issues.

We often talk about foreign cultures, that don’t allow the discussion of AIDS or other STDs. But don’t we foster that same head in the sand attitude in our city? In 2014, we do not have age appropriate sex education in the public schools. We do not distribute condoms in High Schools in Worcester.

If we start talking about obesity as a public health issue, the right starts talking about the nanny state.

The stark reality

Fact: We have an obesity problem in the United States. Look around you when you go to the mall, the morbidly obese are everywhere, what is causing this? Could it be our diet of sugary snacks, junk food and sweet drinks? But the minute someone tries to stop it, they are ridiculed, just like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was when he tried to ban gargantuan soft drinks from the city.

Fact: We have an STD problem. You may not see this like you see obesity, but it exists. And our response is that every time a group like Planned Parenthood wants to provide age and grade appropriate health counseling and education, the church people raise holy hell.

Fact: We have a gun violence problem among young people. Gun deaths among young minority men are on the rise. We need to get guns and gangs off our streets and out of our schools. But every time we talk about handgun control, the gun nuts come out of the woodwork. We need to control guns and assault weapons, so that licensed hunters aren’t affected unless they are using an AK 47 to hunt people.

Addressing the tough issues

Given these facts, last week the Worcester Department of Public Health launched a campaign to make Worcester the healthiest city in New England by 2020. This goal is admirable and attainable, if we all work together and understand what the new public health crises really is. But this was not without controversy. A few city councilors saw it as far reaching.

We can all work on the weight issue together. We need healthier lunches in our schools. We need to stay away from the fast food place once during the week. I get that everyone is busy and that it may be easier to get a pizza, rather than make a meal, but for the sake of ease we are killing our children. Juvenile diabetes is up, asthma is up and food allergies are increasing. There is a cause and effect.

So instead of attacking the nanny state let’s attack the problem.

STD’s are another problem. How do you talk about stopping the spread of STD without talking about sex? Kids are so much more sophisticated than their parents. Remember how cool you used to be.

Lastly we need to get the guns off of our streets and the gangs out of our neighborhoods. Kids need to be sensitized to violence. Too often, because of video games and TV, they think death and violence are games. They think that guns don’t kill, that you can just rewind the Xbox and hit play again and everything will be fine. That’s not reality. Reality is that guns have one purpose—to kill.


Paul Giorgio is a longtime Democratic Party Activist who has worked on numerous campaigns. He was a Lead Advance Person for President Clinton & Vice President Gore. He was Deputy Director of Special Events for President Clinton’s first Inauguration. He has been elected a delegate to numerous Democratic National Conventions and recently served as one of President Obama’s representatives on the Platform Committee. In 2013 he was chosen as a Presidential Elector. He is the President of Pagio, Inc., publishers of Pulse Magazine, Vitality Magazine and Worcester Medicine.


Related Slideshow: New England’s Healthiest States

The United Health Foundation recently released its 2013 annual reoprt: America's Health Rankings, which provides a comparative state by state analysis of several health measures to provide a comprehensive perspective of our nation's health issues. See how the New England states rank in the slides below.



All Outcomes Rank: Outcomes represent what has already occurred, either through death, disease or missed days due to illness. In America's Health Rankings, outcomes include prevalence of diabetes, number of poor mental or physical health days in last 30 days, health disparity, infant mortality rate, cardiovascular death rate, cancer death rate and premature death. Outcomes account for 25% of the final ranking.

Determinants Rank: Determinants represent those actions that can affect the future health of the population. For clarity, determinants are divided into four groups: Behaviors, Community and Environment, Public and Health Policies, and Clinical Care. These four groups of measures influence the health outcomes of the population in a state, and improving these inputs will improve outcomes over time. Most measures are actually a combination of activities in all four groups. 

Diabetes Rank: Based on percent of adults who responded yes to the question "Have you ever been told by a doctor that you have diabetes?" Does not include pre-diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy.

Smoking Rank: Based on percentage of adults who are current smokers (self-report smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke).

Obesity Rank: Based on percentage of adults who are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher.

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/

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6. Rhode Island

Overall Rank: 19

Outcomes Rank: 30

Determinants Rank: 13

Diabetes Rank: 26

Smoking Rank: 14

Obesity Rank: 13



1. Low prevalence of obesity

2. High immunization coverage among adolescents

3. Ready availability of primary care physicians  


1.High rate of drug deaths

2. High rate of preventable hospitalizations

3. Large disparity in heath status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/RI

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5. Maine

Overall Rank: 16

Outcomes Rank: 25

Determinants Rank: 12

Diabetes Rank: 23

Smoking Rank: 29

Obesity Rank: 28



1. Low violent crime rate

2. Low percentage of uninsured population

3. Low prevalence of low birthweight  


1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2.High rate of cancer deaths

3. Limited availability of dentists

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/ME

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4. Connecticut

Overall Rank: 7

Outcomes Rank: 15

Determinants Rank: 4

Diabetes Rank: 16

Smoking Rank: 4

Obesity Rank: 12



1. Low prevalence of smoking

2. Low incidence of infectious diseases

3. High immunization coverage among children & adolescents  


1. Moderate prevalence of binge drinking

2. Low high school graduation rate

3. Large disparity in health status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/CT

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3. New Hampshire

Overall Rank: 5

Outcomes Rank: 7

Determinants Rank: 5

Diabetes Rank: 16

Smoking Rank: 11

Obesity Rank: 22



1. Low percentage of children in poverty

2. High immunization coverage among children

3. Low infant mortality rate  


1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2.High incidence of pertussis infections

3. Low per capita public health funding

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/NH

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2. Massachusetts

Overall Rank: 4

Outcomes Rank: 14

Determinants Rank: 3

Diabetes Rank: 10

Smoking Rank: 7

Obesity Rank: 2



1. Low prevalence of obesity

2. Low percentage of uninsured population

3. Ready availability of primary care physicians & dentists  


1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2. High rate of preventable hospitalizations

3. Large disparity in health status by educational attainment

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/MA

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1. Vermont

Overall Rank: 2

Outcomes Rank: 12

Determinants Rank: 1

Diabetes Rank: 4

Smoking Rank: 9

Obesity Rank: 5



1. High rate of high school graduation

2. Low violent crime rate

3. Low percentage of uninsured population  


1. High prevalence of binge drinking

2. Low immunization coverage among children

3. High incidence of pertussis infections

Source: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/VT


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