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The Boston Globe

West

Concord survey seeks ways to make town healthier

Concord officials have launched a townwide survey asking residents for suggestions on ways to make the community a healthier place to live and work.

The effort is part of a Healthy Communities Planning Grant project funded by the Northeast Suburban Health Alliance/Community Health Network Area 15. Bedford and Lexington are going through a similar process, while Acton and Lincoln have already participated in the project and are working on solutions to needs that were identified by residents.

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Susan G. Rask, Concord’s public health director, said health can refer to any number of areas that contribute to the overall well-being of a community, such as physical, emotional, social, economic, and environmental issues.

“It’s very broad,’’ Rask said. “We want to hear from the community about what they think would make Concord a healthier community.’’

She said the survey is the second phase of the Healthy Concord project that started last spring. The first phase involved interviewing representatives of local organizations and schools, government officials, and some residents to get a sense of the major health issues facing the town. The topics include mental health, public transportation, access to open space and locally grown food, and pressures facing the town’s youths and its oldest residents.

“Our survey will dig deeper into these themes,’’ Rask said. “We hope everyone will take it.’’

She said the survey can be completed online at www.concordma.gov,  and will also be available in locations around town, such as the Concord Free Public Library.

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Once the town compiles the survey results, it will narrow the topics some more and hold focus groups in the spring, said Jill Block, a consultant who is coordinating the Healthy Concord project. The focus groups will be asked to suggest solutions for each issue. The town will use the results to put together recommendations in a report due by next September.

The town received $15,000 for the planning process, and could receive $25,000 to develop programs to implement the recommendations.

Block said the key to developing successful programs is making sure they are feasible, as well as have a funding source and long-term impact.

Lincoln and Acton already completed the planning process and have started implementing ideas, Block said.

Dan Pereira, Lincoln’s parks and recreation director, said the town identified tick-borne illnesses, roadway safety, pressures on children and teens, and connecting vulnerable residents and seniors with the larger community as top concerns. He said the town created task forces to stay on top of the progress in these areas, and a permanent Healthy Communities Committee. He said it’s important for communities to understand that the grant project is just the beginning, and that following through is essential.

“It was very successful,’’ Pereira said of his town’s effort. “The key to success is understanding that you are allowing change to start. Lincoln has created a number of initiatives that will continue to affect change.’’

In Acton, one of the major issues that surfaced from its project was the need for better transportation for seniors, said the town’s health director, Doug Halley. He said a specific concern was providing transportation for medical appointments and grocery shopping. In response, the town is close to launching a regional van service with Maynard, Boxborough, Littleton, and Stow.

“It’s really helped us focus on what we should be focusing on, rather than what we think we should be focusing on,’’ Halley said.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.

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