The mission of Whittier Street Health Center is to provide high quality, reliable and accessible primary health care and support services for diverse populations to promote wellness and eliminate health and social disparities.
Our vision is to serve as the premiere leader in urban healthcare to diverse populations.
Statement of Commitment
In order to ensure that Whittier Street Health Center’s programs and services achieve the mission and vision articulated by the organization’s leadership, we make a pledge to the community we serve to:
- Care for our patients as we would our loved ones: with expertise, compassion and respect;
- Personify initiative, innovation and tenacity in addressing community health priorities;
- Demonstrate that we foster an environment of diversity, reward excellence and added-value, and encourage good citizenship amongst employees;
- Work well with our colleagues and our community to advance the well-being of our clients;
- Exhibit leadership on critical issues in ways worthy of the public’s confidence; and
- Demonstrate accountability, integrity and resourcefulness in our financial stewardship.
At the heart of Whittier Street Health Center is a set of core values that permeate our customer service, patient care and staff interaction:
- Respect for team, patients and self
- Cultural competency in areas of culture, belief systems and language
- Community commitment
- Education of staff and community residents.
- Leadership organizationally and within the medical community
- Trust and trustworthiness
- Best place to work
Patients and Communities Served
WSHC serves several neighborhoods in the Boston urban area, notably Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and South End. The service area experiences high rates of poverty, growth of immigrant populations and an overall poor state of health among its target population. The median age in Boston is 31.7, which is particularly important when considering that North Dorchester has the highest birthrate in the city, with Roxbury having the second highest. Of all Boston neighborhoods, however, Roxbury has the highest percentage of low birth rates, infant deaths, and teenage pregnancies, as well as sexually transmitted diseases and tobacco, alcohol, and other substance use. Our service area deals with extreme violence, whether at home or on the streets. On a scale of one to 10 for violent crime, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, Roxbury rates an eight. In 2011, Roxbury had the highest number of domestic violence calls to the Boston Police Department and the highest number of arrests for domestic violence of any Boston neighborhood.
WSHC’s annual needs assessment documents the poor state of health of low-income residents of the service area and the impact of lack of access to basic primary care services. According to a recent UDS Report, 72% of WSHC’s patients reside in twelve zip code areas. The assessment also identifies the priority health problems for its services. These include prenatal care, infant mortality, sexually transmitted infections, behavioral and substance abuse problems, and adult chronic disease. The identified chronic health issues are diabetes, cancer, hypertension, asthma, HIV, and obesity.
Health disparities: Almost all the health indicators below demonstrate the significant disparities for the two service area neighborhoods, sometimes shockingly so; for instance rates of children’s asthma and incidence of violence (stabbing/gunshots wounds and homicide). Only in suicide rates do the neighborhoods fare better than the city; and while Roxbury has a very low rate of Hepatitis C, North Dorchester’s rate is alarmingly high. The service area does poorly on those indicators of chronic disease where regular primary care, solid health literacy and assiduous disease management are critical: diabetes, heart disease and asthma.
Source: Health of Boston 2015, Boston Public Health Commission
Oral Health: Mirroring national trends, Massachusetts residents face significant barriers to oral health care and are increasingly reporting unmet dental care needs. According to the 2015 Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Survey, 18% of adults reported an unmet need for dental care, a 5 percentage point increase from 2012. An analysis of a 2015 survey of Massachusetts residents found that while the vast majority of adult respondents a dental visit in the past year, those with family incomes at or below 138% FPL were less likely than all other income groups to report a dental care visit (56% versus 82% of individuals at higher income levels). The survey also found that 1 in 5 individuals reported an unmet dental care need due to cost, indicating that affordability was a significant barrier to care. Non-elderly adults were particularly likely to report unmet need for dental care due to cost – 24.4% of non-elderly adults versus 2.6% of children and 16.1% of elderly adults. Almost all of Roxbury’s census tracts are in a designated dental HPSA.
Key findings from “The Oral Health of Massachusetts Children in 2010”found that, in Suffolk County:
§ The proportion of 3rd grade children with untreated decay was significantly greater than the statewide average.
§ On the key oral health indicators of caries experience, the proportions of 3rd grade children and 6th grade adolescents affected by dental caries were significantly greater than the statewide average.
§ The proportion of 6th grade adolescents who had dental sealants was significantly lower than the statewide average.
Furthermore, racial and ethnic disparities in access and oral disease exist. Hispanic children experience the highest rates of untreated decay and all minorities experience more untreated decay than the state average. Children from racial and ethnic minority groups are also less likely to receive preventive services such as sealants. In 2010, 54% of Blacks, 46% of Hispanics, and 65% of non-high-school graduates in Boston had tooth loss compared to only 30% of Asians and 39% of White non-Hispanics.
In 2010 it was found that 28% of Boston Public Housing residents had not had their teeth cleaned for 2 years or more. Recent research suggests that there is a relationship between oral health and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and pneumonia, all of which have high prevalence in the proposed service area.
Behavioral Health: Roxbury has the second highest rate of mental health hospitalizations among Boston neighborhoods. Roxbury’s chronically high homicide rate and historic violence leads to high levels of trauma in the neighborhood’s residents. These stressors lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and high rates of depression. Depression and PTSD are also common in immigrant populations, especially those who have been victims of torture and warfare. Among the black population in Boston, 18.4% reported that they experience depression and 21.6% anxiety. Factors affecting the vulnerability of public housing and immigrant groups to both chronic and infectious disease include: health and mental health issues; gender role change; sexual risk; alcohol and other drug use; and distorted perceptions of risk and implication of behavioral change to increase prevention. These challenges increase their likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors and making poor lifestyle choices because of low health literacy.
Substance Abuse: In Boston the heroin/opioid overdose mortality rate increased by 51% from 8.6 deaths per 100,000 population in 2010 to 13.0 per 100,000 in 2012. The rates of unintentional heroin overdose/poisoning hospital patient encounters increased by 76% from 37.6 per 100,000 population in 2010 to 66.1 per 100,000 in 2012. In 2012, there were 3,909 unique-patient heroin/opioid dependence/abuse hospital patient encounters among Boston residents. The rate of unique-patient heroin/opioid dependence/abuse hospital patient encounters increased by 14% from 386.6 per 100,000 population in 2011 to 441.4 per 100,000 in 2012. At the end of 2014, Boston EMS had administered Narcan 52 times since the beginning of the year compared to 41 times between the same time period in 2013.
Lifestyles Indicators: The following disparities are more than the results for poor lifestyle choices or even of low health literacy. In communities of color like Roxbury and North Dorchester, there is less access to conditions and opportunities that promote health, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, open green space, quality housing, and employment. These constitute the social and environmental determinants of health and profoundly affect people’s lifestyle choices. These inequities are reflected in the following statistics, which have not changed over the past decade.
All the data presented in the previous sections are evidence of the fact that health promoting resources are distributed unevenly across the city and follow patterns of racial segregation and poverty concentration.
HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases: HIV is a great concern for health care providers and public health officials. Although Boston’s rate of new HIV infection is decreasing as it is around the country, rates are increasing among Black/African Americans and Latinos as is heterosexual contact as a mode of transmission. Suffolk County’s prevalence rate was 938 per 100,000 compared to Massachusetts at 338.Roxbury had the second highest rate of HIV incidence after the South End, and North Dorchester was 4th after Jamaica Plain. In 2015, Whittier conducted 4,832 HIV screening sessions. WSHC currently serves 70 PLWHAs who average one visit a month.
In Boston African American and Latino residents suffer disproportionately from debilitating or life-threatening health conditions, such as HIV/STI, hepatitis B/C and other infectious disease.
Source: County Ranking and Health of Boston , 2015, Boston Public Health Commission