To set the stage and speak about my community’s state public health, it is important to first discuss demographics. My community of Hingham, Massachusetts is a suburb about 30 minutes from the city of Boston. The town’s population is approximately 22,000 (7). The town is fairly affluent, as the median household income is $103,350 and the unemployment rate is around 4.4% (7). Furthermore, the town is predominantly white, with a racial makeup that is 97.5% White, 0.40% Black or African American, 0.04% Native American, 0.88% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.22% from other races, 0.95% from two or more races, and 0.75% Hispanic or Latino of any race (8). Other surrounding suburbs on the South Shore have very similar population statistics as these.
I want to first focus on what I consider to set my local community apart from other communities in terms of socio-economic determinants of health. Both access to green space and to healthy food are two huge benefits of my community and largely influence the health of the local population. As my community is suburban and coastal, there is not only ample green space but also many beaches. Furthermore, these spaces are all very safe to get to and be at, making them popular spots for walking and exercise. Most public spaces in the area are now closed amidst the current coronavirus pandemic. However, some spaces managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, like trails, forests, and beaches, are still open to the public with only slight alterations to hours of operation (1). Even though they are open to the public, the parking lots for these facilities have been closed as to prevent people traveling to gather in these spaces (2). Despite closed parking lots, people have still chosen to gather in these spaces disregarding proper social distancing and protective measures such as a mask, which has caused a great deal of tension amongst local residents. Being a problem among young people in particular, towns in the area have even resorted to creating a substantial fine for those gathered at outdoor spaces (3).
Another amazing asset to living on the South Shore of Massachusetts is the access its residents have to food that is both healthy and affordable. With a strong agricultural backbone throughout the entire state, it is actually cheaper to buy produce at farmers markets than at grocery stores in most cases (4). Furthermore, the Greater Boston Food Bank has an initiative that ensures the delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables to all of the food pantries they provide for in my local community (5). Between these two things, Hingham residents and those in the surrounding area have great opportunities to opt for a more nutritious diet within their budget. However, this too has changed drastically with the coronavirus pandemic. Farmers markets may have to open later than their usual May starting dates this year. Additionally, there has been a transition in support for farms and local vendors. As people become more paralyzed day by day by the fear of going to large grocery store, there has been a massive influx of customers supporting small businesses. Ironically, this surge of demand has been so overwhelming that some businesses are unable to keep up. The owner of a popular local farm divulges that their sales in eggs per week went up by 8,000 and sales in gallons of milk per week went up by 4,000. (6).
1) “Department of Conservation & Recreation.” Mass.gov, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-conservation-recreation.
2) Markos, Mary. “Charlie Baker Closing DCR Beach Lots, Opening State Parks Early amid Coronavirus.” Boston Herald, Boston Herald, 3 Apr. 2020, www.bostonherald.com/2020/04/02/charlie-baker-closing-dcr-beaches-opening-state-parks-early-amid-coronavirus/.
3) Ledger, Wheeler Cowperthwaite The Patriot. “Towns Consider Fines, Criminal Trespass for Social Distancing Violators.” Marshfield Mariner, Marshfield Mariner, 16 Apr. 2020, marshfield.wickedlocal.com/news/20200415/towns-consider-fines-criminal-trespass-for-social-distancing-violators.
4) “Local and Affordable: Massachusetts-Grown Produce Less Expensive than Grocery Store Produce.” MA Food System Collaborative Projects – Local and Affordable: Massachusetts-Grown Produce Less Expensive than Grocery Store Produce, mafoodsystem.org/projects/FMpricesurvey2018/.
5) “Improving Nutrition: Nutrition Education and Distribution.” The Greater Boston Food Bank, www.gbfb.org/what-we-do/improving-nutrition/.
6) Whitfull, Mary. “Norwell’s Hornstra Farms: We Just Can’t Handle Any More Businness.” The Patriot Ledger, 18 Apr. 2020, www.patriotledger.com/news/20200418/norwells-hornstra-farms-we-just-cant-handle-any-more-businness.
7) “Demographic Information: Hingham, MA.” Demographic Information | Hingham, MA, Town of Hingham, www.hingham-ma.gov/455/Demographic-Information.
8) “Hingham Town, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.” United States Census Bureau, American Fact Finder, 2000, archive.vn/20200212041734/http:/factfinder.census.gov/servlet/QTTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=06000US2502330210&-qr_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U_DP1&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U&-_lang=en&-_sse=on.