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Mayor Walsh, BPHC release health impact assessment findings

May 4, 2016

Public Health Commission

Published by:

Public Health Commission

The report demonstrates the impact of changes to Boston's Living Wage Ordinance on the health of low wage workers.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined health officials to announce the findings of the Boston Public Health Commission's (BPHC) health impact assessment of Boston's Living Wage Ordinance, highlighting opportunities to strengthen the Living Wage Ordinance by increasing the living wage and expanding the pool of workers protected by the ordinance.

"As a city, one of our top priorities is making Boston an equitable and inclusive city for everyone," said Mayor Walsh. "This Health Impact Assessment is another step in the process we're taking to make all of our city's labor and wage laws work for our residents. I thank all of our partners and the Boston Public Health Commission for their work on this report and look forward to our important work ahead to provide our residents with the tools and services they need to become financially empowered."

"This report demonstrates Boston's commitment to improving health for all Boston residents and, in particular, achieving health equity by addressing the social determinants of health," said BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi. "The living wage ordinance was originally passed almost 20 years ago to give workers a better chance at making a living in Boston. While it may have succeeded initially in achieving its goal, it now falls short."

The health impact assessment represents more than a year of in-depth study of Boston's Living Wage Ordinance, engagement with dozens of stakeholders, and an analysis of the relationship between health and socioeconomic status. The analysis examined the relationship between income and health to estimate the benefits of increasing the living wage. The report predicts that an increase from $14 to $17 per hour would create measurable health benefits among living wage workers, including:

  • A 62% drop in persistent sadness and a 30% drop in anxiety;
  • A 30% decrease in the number of residents who suffer from food insecurity and hunger, and an increase in the number of residents who could afford to eat healthier foods;
  • A marked decrease in the number of residents who suffer from chronic conditions, including diabetes (43%), asthma (11.5%) and hypertension (9.5%).  

The current ordinance applies to a small number of workers - about 600 - at the bottom of the wage scale. Mayor Walsh and health officials recommend both an expansion of its reach and increased efforts to enforce its implementation, including improved data collection systems. The Walsh Administration and BPHC will use the data collected to better target programs and services, such as job training opportunities, to low wage workers. Officials plan to work with local, private businesses around enforcement and expansion.

The project, which is funded through a grant from the Health Impact Project (a joint venture of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), began in November 2014. The living wage ordinance economic analysis was performed by partners at the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. With the city's commitment to economic equity and inclusion, the results offer a better understanding of the connection between health and economic factors, paving the way for changes that could improve the health and well-being of low wage workers.

Mayor Walsh, BPHC, City Council and the Advisory Board will continue to fully explore opportunities to expand and strengthen the Living Wage Ordinance.

About the Boston Public Health Commission
The Boston Public Health Commission, the country's oldest health department, is an independent public agency providing a wide range of health services and programs. It is governed by a seven-member board of health appointed by the Mayor of Boston.

Public service and access to quality health care are the cornerstones of our mission - to protect, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of all Boston residents, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The Commission's more than 40 programs are grouped into six bureaus: Child, Adolescent & Family Health; Community Health Initiatives; Homeless Services; Infectious Disease; Bureau of Recovery Services; and Emergency Medical Services.