“Safe Routes to School” Recognized, Facing Vector Borne Diseases, and more from the Board of Health

By Ben Oleksinski

The Bedford Board of Health convened Monday, June 3 at the Town Center to discuss ongoing projects, while also turning their attention to new public health issues specific to summer:

A collaborative biking safety effort, Safe Routes to School with the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Committee and Bedford Schools, was honored at a State House awards program, receiving honorable mention or gold star for programs and commitment to SRTS. The John Glenn Middle School was awarded the gold star honor, while projects at other schools had honorable mentions.

The Board of Health looks to build on the success of current programs. This includes events such as safety training and Bike/Walk to School Day along with improvements to town infrastructure relative to biking, such as sidewalk integration (in accordance with the five- and ten-year plans from the Department of Public Works). The first steps of this will be the Complete Streets project at Hartwell and Crescent/Bacon Streets, where a rapid beacon for pedestrians crossing at Great Road and Hillside Avenue and a 20-foot raised crosswalk will be installed. The project is planned for Spring and Summer 2019.

Grant funds, received from Emergency Preparedness Region 4AB, will be utilized to purchase new trauma kits. These will be placed along-side each of the 15 town-managed automated external defibrillators (AEDs). The Board of Health plans to have each stationed strategically at gathering spaces in town. These newer, larger trauma kits are equipped to help out groups of people in the event of emergency or crisis.

Board members attended a Vaping Prevention forum hosted by the Massachusetts Health Council. The DPH Commissioner spoke about the epidemic of vaping. A physician from Mass General specializing in nicotine addicted youth spoke of vaping cessation programs including use of motivational interviewing, medication, and therapy. The Board views vaping as a major health issue among the town’s youth and seeks to utilize the insights gained from the forum.

With the arrival of summer, the Board of Health considered a particularly biting new health issue: vector-borne diseases from mosquitoes and ticks. Still, in the early stages, this program would seek to provide thoughtful, overarching guidelines concerning a nuisance all too familiar to Bedford residents. Should they decide to move forward, the Board of Health would first need to determine the type of mosquitoes, their numbers, and types of diseases, as well as the legal limitations to solve the environmental imbalance.

Lastly: Board members attended the Emergency Preparedness Region 4AB meeting, where they heard a presentation on how municipal employees can support and staff public health emergency dispensing sites and shelters via contract negotiations and amended job descriptions.

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