Gloria Respress-Churchwell

By Andree EntezariOctober 21st, 2019




Public Health Post: Follow Chester! is based on the experiences of Dr. Chester Pierce while playing football as a student at Harvard in the 1940s. Dr. Pierce coined the term “microaggression.” How did he shape the conversation about race and health?

Gloria Respress-Churchwell: What Dr. Pierce did in such a genius way was that he allowed the conversation on the civil rights movement and changing Jim Crow laws to move forward among African Americans. Instead of just saying, “Well, that’s just subtle. That’s just me imagining” a situation or statement that felt wrong, he put a name to it. He said, “No, this is existing and I’m going to name it.” And that name was microaggression. With that, he then helped to us to say, “Okay. That’s a microaggression. That’s something that’s done subtly that makes me feel different because of my race.” And because of that reason, I feel that he shaped the conversation by giving us the verbiage to move forward in identifying things that were unjust.

What is the biggest takeaway from Follow Chester! for young readers?

It’s a book about life 72 years ago. The takeaway for kids is that even though these events happened to Dr. Pierce long ago, some of these things are still prevalent today and that we need to address them. The takeaway is for them to feel empowered within themselves to say, “I can help to bring about that change.”

What are the challenges for writing about health for children?

I don’t think that there are challenges. I think you just need to make any topic accessible for kids so that they can get into it. You find a story that needs to be told and make it as interesting as possible. And I feel like kids will definitely soak it up and they’ll take more out of it than you expect.

Do you think the underrepresentation of African American, Latinx, Asian and Native American characters in children’s books shapes children’s wellbeing?

I definitely think so. Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s concept of children having mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors highlights that children who are underrepresented should especially see themselves in books. And if they don’t see themselves in books, what does that say? The absence speaks volumes. It speaks volumes in their confidence and in their everyday being. I feel that it definitely does shape wellbeing. We need more books like “Follow Chester” because it helps to let kids know that they’re important—all races, all colors, especially children of color.

How can public health messaging leverage storytelling to start a dialogue with kids?

Healthy literacy leads to a healthy child. It all works together. If the child can’t read and they don’t have that sense of pride within themselves, it leads to other things –  maybe they’re not going to go on to college, and maybe that spirals to having low paying jobs and all of the things that are associated: eating incorrectly and subsequently having health issues, for example. But if they have literacy, it can help open doors to other opportunities that will give them a better way of life.

I feel that picture books help children and parents have conversations, and as a children’s book author, I know that picture books can allow us to have weighty conversations not only with children, but the parents.

This conversation was lightly edited for brevity and clarity.  

Photo courtesy of Gloria-Respress Churchwell


DESE Update, October 11th, 2019

By Andree EntezariOctober 17th, 2019in DESE Updates
1. Application Open for the Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning:

The Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning is a pilot program created to nurture deeper learning in Massachusetts public schools. The pilot will run from January 2020 to June 2021 and will give individual schools and entire districts the chance to rethink classroom instruction around deeper learning.

Schools, districts, and collaboratives that want to push innovations in professional development, instruction, learning spaces, community partnerships, and other areas to improve student outcomes are encouraged to apply to the pilot program by Friday, November 15.

Picture of the Week:

On October 4, Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago, Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy and Commissioner Riley spoke at “In Pursuit of Equity, Accountability, and Success: Latinx Students in Massachusetts Schools”, a symposium at Worcester State University. Parts of the event were recorded, and video is available online at

3. Registration Open for “Sharing for Success” Dissemination Fair:

The “Sharing for Success” Dissemination Fair will run from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday, November 8 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Leominster. The event is an opportunity to learn best practices from a variety of schools, ask questions, and make contacts for future conversations. Topics that will be discussed include:

  • Reducing chronic absenteeism;
  • Interdisciplinary, project-based learning;
  • Recruiting and retaining diverse and talented teachers;
  • Effective academic interventions;
  • Best practices in supporting students with disabilities and English learners;
  • Social-emotional learning;
  • Culturally responsive instruction;
  • Re-engaging disengaged learners;
  • Restorative practices;
  • Cross-sector dissemination;
  • Creating a holistic district/school-wide approach to equity; and
  • Trauma-sensitive practices.

This event is intended for school and district leaders and their teams, including school staff such as teachers, counselors, or instructional coaches. Each member of the team should register separately, and presenters should register, too.

The registration deadline is Friday, November 1. Please contact Esther Jeong at or 781-338-3206 with any questions.

Please note that there will be a meeting for charter school leaders only from 2:30-3:15 p.m. on November 8 at the same location.

4. New Afterschool and Summer Grant Opportunity:

A new grant is available to increase access to high quality afterschool and summer learning programs. Applicants may apply for up two programs per district, for up to $95,000 for the creation of a new program or $50,000 for an existing program. The grant’s priorities include serving additional underserved students and closing opportunity gaps. Applications are due on November 7. Please contact with questions.

5. VOCAL Webinar:

The Department will offer an hour-long webinar on what schools and districts need to know to appropriately analyze the Views of Climate and Learning (VOCAL) survey data that will be available on October 25. The webinar is planned for 2:30 p.m. on November 7. Registration for the webinar is available online, and anyone with questions about the webinar can email Shelagh Peoples at

6. Fall Healthy Schools Wellness Webinar Series:

All districts are invited to join a free Healthy Schools Wellness Webinar Series offered by the John C. Stalker Institute on Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University. Participants will learn how to build buy-in to improve the school health environment using evidence-based tools derived from the Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community Framework that the CDC Healthy Schools Program uses.  District and school-based wellness teams are particularly encouraged to participate, as are student, family, and community partners who support school wellness initiatives.

Registration is open online for the November 13 webinar on “Moving Wellness Initiatives into Action” and for the December 4 webinar on “Translating Nutrition Policy into Action”. Anyone with questions can email Lenore Maniaci at

7. Grants for Breakfast After the Bell:

Project Bread is offering three grant opportunities for the 2019-2020 academic year to schools or districts looking to launch or improve a Breakfast After the Bell program. The grants are timely, given that the state budget now mandates that schools serve Breakfast After the Bell if 60 percent or more of their students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Grants are available for:

  • Schools or districts mandated by the state budget to serve Breakfast After the Bell;
  • Schools or districts currently offering Breakfast After the Bell and looking to serve healthier menu items; and
  • Schools or districts that want to start serving Breakfast After the Bell and that have at least 30 percent of their students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Funding awards range from $2,500 per school to $12,500 per district. Districts may apply for more than one grant. Applications are due by November 15, and funding announcements will be made by December 20. Visit for more information.

8. Bilingual Education Endorsement:

The Department recently published a memo on the requirements for educators to receive a Bilingual Education Endorsement (download), and the memo also contains other information that may be helpful to school districts that are offering or planning to offer a bilingual education program. Topics in the memo include pathways for obtaining the Bilingual Education Endorsement, information on waiver applications, the endorsement’s relationship to previous Transitional Bilingual Educator credentials, and where to go for more information.

Ill from Pills

By Andree EntezariOctober 4th, 2019
Ill from Pills
By Julia Garcia
October 4, 2019

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, over-the-counter diet pills and muscle-building supplements are barely regulated. Yet Americans spend more than $30 billion on supplements each year. These supplements are sold over-the-counter and available to customers of all ages despite research suggesting they can be harmful. Minors with a history of eating disorders are especially vulnerable to the harms of diet pills and muscle-building supplements. Feeling pressure to look a certain way, teenagers often acquire these products to lose weight or bulk up.

The apparent association between diet pills and eating disorders among young people has raised significant concern among Massachusetts residents and legislators. The state legislature is considering a bill that would ban the sale of diet pills and muscle-building supplements to persons under the age of 18. Many argue that unfettered access to these products can exacerbate eating disorders among young people. During state house testimony, women shared tearful stories of how they used diet pills to starve themselves from a young age, to the point that they were no longer able to conceive children. Young people shared stories of feeling helpless to stop using these products, given their easy access and promised results. Parents, too, reported feeling at a loss to protect their children from products widely available and well-marketed.

The proposed law requires retail establishments to keep these products out of sight by placing them behind the counter or in a lock-box, where customers are unable to access them without help from an employee. But these measures only get at one component of the problem. The other concern is that the US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate diet pills and muscle-building supplements. Numerous reports indicate undisclosed pharmaceutical drugs are often present in diet pills, suggesting that diet pills should be held to the same standard as pharmaceuticals.

Minors with a history of eating disorders are especially vulnerable to the harms of diet pills and muscle-building supplements.


The process for regulating pharmaceuticals is rigorous. By the time drugs are placed on the market, they’ve undergone a long series (sometimes years-long) of tests required by the FDA to make sure they’re safe for consumption. The FDA also requires all pharmaceuticals to list all ingredients on the label and provide evidence to back up marketing claims. The same process isn’t required for dietary and muscle-building supplements. It’s also impossible for consumers to know what they’re consuming, how it will affect them, or the potential risks of mixing diet pills and supplements with other medications.

To identify unsafe or adulterated supplements containing unapproved ingredients in diet pills and supplements, the FDA relies on post-market surveillance efforts. The FDA is responsible for reviewing adverse event reports and consumer complaints, the inspection of dietary supplement firms, and screening imported products. Although the FDA doesn’t clear products before they hit store shelves, they are supposed to remove unsafe ones from the market.

Regulatory recourse doesn’t always work. Last October, researchers discovered 746 adulterated supplements and reported them to the FDA, but the FDA only announced recalls for 360 (48%). This means the majority of adulterated supplements discovered and reported to the FDA remain on the market for sale. Supplements cause 23,000 emergency room visits every year and 2,000 of those are serious enough to warrant hospitalization. Herbal supplements – especially those promising weight loss and improved energy and sex drive – account for 65% of ER visits from these quasi-unregulated products.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

DESE Update: September 27th, 2019

By Andree EntezariOctober 3rd, 2019in DESE Updates
1. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Meeting:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met September 24 at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. They heard from a Pittsfield educator diversity panel and a presentation by the Berkshire County Education Task Force. The Board voted to solicit public comment on a proposed amendment to Competency Determination regulations. Members also discussed Commissioner Riley's goals for 2019-2020 school year; 2019 student, school, and district MCAS and accountability results; the FY20 budget; and the FY21 budget timeline.

2. 2019 National Green Ribbon Honorees:

Picture of the Week:

Students and staff at Boston Green Academy display the Green Ribbon Award plaque they received this week for being a National Green Ribbon School. (Photo courtesy of Boston Green Academy)

A group of about 20 students and staff stand under a Boston Green Academy banner. The student in the center is holding a plaque with a green citation.

Three Massachusetts schools and districts – Boston Green Academy, Ipswich Middle/High School, and the Wellesley Public Schools – were honored this week in Washington, D.C. as National Green Ribbon Schools. The program honors schools that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs, improving the health and wellness of students and staff, and delivering effective environmental and sustainability education that incorporates science, technology, engineering and math; civic skills; and green career pathways. Congratulations to all involved on this amazing accomplishment!

Massachusetts is now accepting applications for the 2020 Green Ribbon Schools, due Friday, January 17. 2020. Applicants may enter the competition as either a school or a district. Massachusetts will select one or more schools or districts to be honored at the state level; those honorees are then elevated to the U.S. Department of Education, where they will have the opportunity to be honored as a national Green Ribbon School winner. For more information, visit DESE’s Green Ribbon Schools website.

3. 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools:

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recognized six Massachusetts schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. All six Massachusetts schools were recognized for high performance. The six schools are: Community Day Charter Public School – R. Kingman Webster in Lawrence, Charles J. Prescott Elementary School in Norwood, Downey School in Westwood, E. Ethel Little Elementary School in North Reading, Harrington Elementary School in Lexington, and Westhampton Elementary School in Westhampton. Congratulations to all!

4. Civic Engagement Champion:

Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year Michael Neagle is one of four middle school teachers who the National Association of State Boards of Education recently named Civic Engagement Champions. Mr. Neagle, who teaches social studies at Pyne Arts Magnet School in Lowell, was also a semifinalist for 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. The other Civic Engagement Champions are from Chicago; Baltimore County, Md.; and Oak Harbor, Wash. Congratulations, Mr. Neagle!

5. MCAS and Accountability Results:

The Department released 2019 MCAS results and school and district accountability determinations on September 24. The release includes the first year of next generation MCAS results for grade 10 and the third year of results for students in grades 3 through 8. It also includes the second year of results based on the state’s accountability system, which measures how a school or district is doing and what kind of support it may need.Based on the 2019 accountability results (download), 71 percent of schools are demonstrating improvement. Two schools exited underperforming status this year: William Ellery Channing Elementary School in Boston and John J. Duggan Middle School in Springfield. In addition, the commissioner commended 67 schools of recognition. Congratulations to all of those that were recognized!6. FY20 Educator

Diversification RFP:
As a reminder, the FY20 Educator Diversification Grant RFP is now posted. The competitive Teacher Diversification Pilot Program is designed to help school districts strengthen and diversify existing teacher recruitment and retention programs. Please note an update in the eligibility language in the RFP. As previously stated, districts identified as requiring assistance or intervention based on 2019 accountability data are eligible to apply for the grant. In addition, a district is also eligible to apply if one or more schools in the district fulfill any one of the criteria below:

  • Is among the lowest 10th percentile of schools
  • Has a low graduation rates
  • Has low subgroup performance
  • Has low MCAS participation

Please reference DESE’s District and School Accountability webpage to access accountability lists, materials, and tools.The Department will conduct two more one-hour webinars on October 1 and 2 to review the purpose of the grant, provide an overview of grant requirements, and address any questions districts may have. Registration for the webinars is open online.Grant proposals are due at 5 p.m. Wednesday, October 9. For questions related to this grant opportunity, please email

6. FY20 Educator Diversification RFP:

As a reminder, the FY20 Educator Diversification Grant RFP is now posted. The competitive Teacher Diversification Pilot Program is designed to help school districts strengthen and diversify existing teacher recruitment and retention programs. Please note an update in the eligibility language in the RFP. As previously stated, districts identified as requiring assistance or intervention based on 2019 accountability data are eligible to apply for the grant. In addition, a district is also eligible to apply if one or more schools in the district fulfill any one of the criteria below:

  • Is among the lowest 10th percentile of schools
  • Has a low graduation rates
  • Has low subgroup performance
  • Has low MCAS participation

Please reference DESE’s District and School Accountability webpage to access accountability lists, materials, and tools.

The Department will conduct two more one-hour webinars on October 1 and 2 to review the purpose of the grant, provide an overview of grant requirements, and address any questions districts may have. Registration for the webinars is open online.

Grant proposals are due at 5 p.m. Wednesday, October 9. For questions related to this grant opportunity, please email

7. Registration Last Call for Leading with Access and Equity Convening:

All districts are invited to send a team to the Second Annual Leading with Access and Equity Convening on Thursday, October 24 at the Best Western Conference Center in Marlborough. This free, daylong professional development opportunity will focus on topics such as creating a pipeline of diverse educators, developing multi-tiered systems of support, ensuring equitable access to high-quality curriculum, implementing bilingual education, ensuring racial and cultural equity, engaging families, addressing student mobility, addressing students’ mental health needs, and integrating social emotional and academic learning. Presenters will include special educator and author Jessica Minahan and other expert district, DESE, and partner organization leaders and practitioners from across the Commonwealth.

Districts are invited to attend as a team of at least three and up to ten members. Registration is open until Friday, October 4 and will be capped at 700 participants. Districts should register their team online as soon as possible. Anyone with questions about the conference can email Susan Fischer.

Teacher Collaborative Co-Labs: The Teacher Collaborative is accepting applications for two Co-Labs for Innovation: The Rocket Science Co-Lab, which invites teams of educators to explore ways for students to engage in risk-taking and critical thinking as a regular part of their school experience, and Suburban* Educators for Equity Co-Lab: in which educators will consider how to bring about equity and inclusivity in a suburban setting. (*Note: Although priority will be given to suburban educators, all preK-12 educators in Massachusetts are welcome to apply.) Please email Kat Johnston with any questions.

DESE Update September 20th, 2019

By Andree EntezariSeptember 30th, 2019in DESE Updates
1. Board to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24 at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. The agenda includes a Pittsfield educator diversity panel; a presentation by the Berkshire County Education Task Force; a discussion of Commissioner Riley's goals for 2019-2020 school year; a discussion of 2019 student, school, and district MCAS and accountability results; a vote to solicit public comment on a proposed amendment to Competency Determination regulations, and an overview of the FY20 budget and the FY21 budget timeline.

The Department plans to stream the meeting online at

Picture of the Week:
September 19 was STEM Day at Fenway Park. With funding from CITGO, the Red Sox donated 500 tickets that DESE distributed to award-winning STEM teachers around the state and STEM-focused schools in Boston. These students from Hopkinton High School were among the group who attended with Douglas Scott, a 2019 finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Scott)
Three high school girls stand in the Red Sox Kids Concourse holding a rally towell that says CITGO STEM Talent Pipeline and holding a paper with what looks like a STEM-related diagram. All three are smiling.
3. MCAS and Accountability Results to Be Released:
In preparation for the release of official MCAS and accountability results on September 24, DESE has made the following data available to districts in the Security Portal:
  • official embargoed MCAS student rosters and .csv data files (in DropBox Central),
  • official embargoed MCAS and MCAS-Alt student results (in Edwin Analytics), and
  • official embargoed accountability data for districts and schools.
Commissioner Riley and DESE staff will hold an embargoed web conference for reporters at 3:00 p.m. Monday, September 23. The embargo will lift at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, September 24. Official district and school MCAS and MCAS-Alt results and accountability results will be posted on DESE’s School and District Profiles website by approximately 9:00 a.m.
By the end of the day September 30, electronic MCAS parent/guardian reports will be available to districts in PearsonAccess Next, and printed parent/guardian reports will be delivered via UPS to district offices.
4. SIMS Early Childhood Experiences Data Element:

The Department’s Early Learning Team, in collaboration with the staff from the Education Data Services team, is providing technical assistance on the state’s Early Childhood Experiences data element (DOE050), which was added to the Student Information Management System (SIMS) in the 2018-19 school year. A webinar on the data element, along with technical assistance on how to collect the information needed to report in SIMS, will be offered on September 23 and 25 for early childhood coordinators, elementary principals and data administrators responsible for SIMS data collection.

Additionally, the Early Learning team will host office hours during the week of September 30 for districts who want to speak with staff individually about data collection efforts related to this element. Anyone interested in the webinar and/or office hours is asked to please register online.

5. Innovation Schools Annual Evaluation Now Overdue:

As mentioned in June, the Innovation Schools Statute requires superintendents in districts with innovation schools and/or academies to evaluate innovation schools at least annually. These annual evaluations must be submitted to the local School Committee as well as to DESE by August 1, 2019. To complete this submission, DESE requests that superintendents use the updated innovation schools annual evaluation template (download).

Please note that districts must submit an evaluation for each innovation school or academy in operation during the 2018-2019 school year. Districts that have missed the original deadline are asked to submit their evaluation(s) to Brenton Stewart via email by October 18. Please note that if innovation status has ended for any schools or academies in your district, the district should still complete all the applicable sections of the annual evaluation. Finally, include the date innovation status ended as well as any other relevant updates within the final section of the evaluation template.

For a list of districts that implement(ed) innovation schools or academies at any point in time over the past three school years, please see DESE’s School Redesign webpage. Submitting the annual evaluations is an essential step to fulfilling DESE’s obligation to submit an annual legislative report on innovation schools and programs.

6. Space Still Available for EWIS and VOCAL Training Opportunities:

The Department has limited space available in two of its data usage workshops. The workshops are entitled "Maximizing EWIS and VOCAL (Views of Climate and Learning) data in a Cycle of Inquiry", and each session will cover the basics of the Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) as well as an introduction to VOCAL school climate data. The following workshops have openings:

  • Holyoke Community College: September 24
  • Devens Commons Center: October 3

More information and registration is available online. Anyone with questions can email

7. MTEL Vouchers:

The Department is pleased to announce a request for responses (RFR) for organizations to apply for MTEL vouchers to support individual teacher candidates. Eligible organizations include sponsoring organizations with educator preparation programs, districts, collaboratives, approved special education schools, and community colleges. The application is posted online. Bids are due by noon on October 7.

8. Survey on Professional Development:

The Department is seeking to better understand the professional development decision-making process in districts across the state. To that end, DESE invites superintendents (or their designee) to complete the District Professional Development Survey by Friday, October 11. Districts’ perspective will help shape the approach and resources that DESE pursues to better support educator growth. This 5-10 minute survey should be completed by a district representative who is involved in decision-making related to professional development providers. For additional information, please email Meagan Comb

9. Changes in Reporting for Postsecondary Students in Chapter 74 Programs:

Every fall, DESE collects a Chapter 74 Vocational Technical Education Postsecondary and Postgraduate Report from districts and schools that includes the number of postsecondary and postgraduate students participating in Chapter 74 programs in secondary schools. In past years, the data collection protocol has not kept pace with other data collection changes that have streamlined processes and allowed for an increase in accountability and an understanding of student outcomes. This fall, we have initiated changes that include identifying individual student participation in these programs. Full instructions are available at Districts should complete the reporting by November 30.

The Office for College, Career, and Technical Education aims to work closely with districts and schools while implementing these changes. Anyone with feedback, requests or concerns regarding changes this year, is invited to email Jennifer Appleyard.

10. Charter School Applications:

The Department received proposals this summer from four groups seeking to open new charter schools in Lynn, Milford, and Westfield. The reviews of the prospectuses have been completed, and Commissioner Riley has not invited any of the groups to submit a final application this fall.  The commissioner’s determination is based upon a review of each prospectus against the application criteria or, in the case of one resubmission, the requirements necessary for proven provider status.

In addition to the prospectuses, DESE received a letter of intent from an applicant group seeking to establish a Horace Mann II charter school in Warwick in Western Massachusetts, and it is possible that DESE will receive an application from that group later this fall. Horace Mann II applications can be submitted at any time and seek to convert an existing district school into a Horace Mann charter school with school committee approval.

The Department continues to review three expansion requests from existing charter schools: Boston Day and Evening Academy Charter School (a Horace Mann charter school), Pioneer Charter School of Science II in Saugus, and Veritas Preparatory Charter School in Springfield (both of which are Commonwealth charter schools). Commissioner Riley will determine whether to recommend these requests to the Board of Elementary and Secondary for approval later this year.

11. Changes to ELA MCAS Test Design:

As part of DESE’s efforts to reduce testing time for students, the test designs for the 2020 English Language Arts MCAS tests in grades 3–8 and 10 have changed.  Changes include:

  • the elimination of one operational essay in each grade;
  • the addition of multiple choice items, including both language and reading items;
  • a small adjustment to reporting category percentages; and
  • a small reduction in the total number of points on the grades 6–8 and 10 tests.

In addition to helping reduce testing time, these changes are also intended to make the student testing experience on the grades 3–8 tests and the grade 10 test more similar.

12. For your info:
  • Rightfully Yours art competition: The National Archives is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote and is holding the Rightfully Yours art competition to invite students in grades 4-6 to think about the path to universal suffrage, consider how women’s suffragists failed and succeeded, and create a piece of visual art that answers the question “What does the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote mean to you and your community?” Entries are due November 5.
  • Prudential Spirit of Community Awards: The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honor students in grades 5-12 for their volunteer work. The application is available online at and and is due November 5.

Governor Charlie Baker Declares Public Health Emergency, Announces Temporary Four-Month Ban on Sale of All Vape Products

By Andree EntezariSeptember 30th, 2019

State responds to public health concerns about unexplained vaping-related illness; Prohibits online and retail sale of nicotine, flavored, non-flavored and marijuana vaping products effective immediately


BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker today declared a public health emergency in response to confirmed and suspected cases of severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes and marijuana vaping products in the Commonwealth. The Governor called for a temporary four-month statewide ban on the sale of flavored and non-flavored vaping products in both retail stores and online. The sales ban applies to all vaping products and devices, including tobacco and marijuana. The ban takes effect immediately and lasts through January 25, 2020.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are currently investigating a multi-state outbreak of lung disease that has been associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges). To date, the CDC has confirmed 530 cases of lung injury across 38 states. While many of the patients reported recent use of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products, some reported using both THC and nicotine products. No single product has been linked to all cases of lung disease.


Earlier this month, the Department of Public Health (DPH) mandated that Massachusetts physicians immediately report any unexplained vaping-associated pulmonary disease to the department. As of today, 61 cases have been reported to DPH. Three confirmed cases and two probable cases of vaping-associated pulmonary disease in the state have already been reported to the CDC. The rest are pending further clinical analysis.


“The use of e-cigarettes and marijuana vaping products is exploding and we are seeing reports of serious lung illnesses, particularly in our young people,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The purpose of this public health emergency is to temporarily pause all sales of vaping products so that we can work with our medical experts to identify what is making people sick and how to better regulate these products to protect the health of our residents.”


“Vaping products are marketed and sold in nearly 8,000 flavors that make them easier to use and more appealing to youth,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Today’s actions include a ban on flavored products, inclusive of mint and menthol, which we know are widely used by young people. It is important that we continue to educate youth and parents about the dangers of vaping.”


Vaping consists of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol (often called vapor) produced by an e-cigarette or similar battery-powered device. E-cigarettes come in many different sizes, types and colors. Some resemble pens, small electronic devices such as USB sticks and other everyday items. The products are often compact and allow for discreet carrying and use – at home, in school hallways and bathrooms and even in classrooms.


The U.S. Surgeon General has called teen e-cigarette use an epidemic. According to the CDC, since 2014 e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among both middle and high school students. In Massachusetts, 41 percent of all youth in 2017 reported trying e-cigarettes and 1 in 5 reported using e-cigarettes regularly. Current use of e-cigarettes among high school students is 6 times higher than that for adults (3.3% of adults reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days).


Last week, the Administration convened a group of pulmonary doctors and pediatric experts from Massachusetts to share what they have seen in their patients—especially our youth—and their concerns about the trajectory of vaping related lung disease. The experts shared concerning information about the rapid rate of addiction to e-cigarettes, use and overuse of marijuana vaping products and cases of youth becoming hospitalized within two weeks of using vaping related products.


During the temporary ban, the Administration will work with medical experts, state and federal officials to better understand vaping illnesses and work on additional steps to address this public health crisis. This could include legislation and regulations. The Administration will also work on providing more resources for a public awareness campaign and smoking cessation programs.


“Vaping is a public health crisis and it is imperative that we understand its impact at both the individual and overall health care system level,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “As a result of the public health emergency, the Commonwealth is implementing a statewide standing order for nicotine replacement products, like gum and patches, which will allow people to access these products as a covered benefit through their insurance without requiring an individual prescription, similar to what our Administration did to increase access to naloxone.”


Massachusetts has a long history of having a strong tobacco cessation and prevention infrastructure that requires close collaboration between DPH and local health departments which assist with the enforcement of tobacco control policies at the local level.


The Administration will work with these groups to ensure the temporary ban is enforced while also increasing the availability of cessation resources and the capacity of the Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline. The Helpline is a free and confidential service for individuals who seek help to end their tobacco use. The service includes specialized coaching, including behavioral health counseling and connection to local support groups. Over 9,000 individuals are served annually.


The Baker-Polito Administration has strengthened the Helpline’s robust outreach about nicotine replacement therapies so individuals who were previously vaping are not inadvertently steered to traditional cigarettes. Individuals who would like help seeking treatment are encouraged to call the Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit


Massachusetts has made significant progress over the past two decades in curbing youth and adult tobacco use. In 1996, the youth smoking rate was 36.7%. Today, the youth smoking rate is 6.4%. The adult smoking rate is also low, with just under 14% of adults using combustible tobacco products.


“Our priority is protecting the public health,” said Public Health Commissioner Bharel, MD, MPH. “The Governor’s actions today will help prevent more cases of this dangerous lung disease while getting people, especially young people, the help they need to quit.”


To further inform the public about the dangers of vaping and e-cigarette use, DPH is relaunching two public awareness campaigns aimed at educating parents and middle and high school-aged youth. “Different Products, Same Danger,” originally launched in April 2019, links the dangers of vaping to cigarette smoking, and was developed with the input and feedback from middle and high school students across the state. “The New Look of Nicotine Addiction,” originally launched in July 2018, seeks to spread the word that these high-tech products are harmful and contain nicotine which can damage a teenager’s developing brain and lead to addiction. More information on both campaigns is available at and Materials are also available for download on the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse website.


Over the next four months, the Administration will work closely with the Legislature, public health officials and other stakeholders to consider legislative and/or appropriate regulatory reforms.


For more information please visit:


Click here to read a copy of the declaration.


October 22nd: Social Work and the Health of Populations

By Andree EntezariSeptember 20th, 2019in SHIELD Updates

Social Work and the Health of Populations

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

3:00–5:30 p.m.


Charles River Campus, Photonics Center, Colloquium Room
8 St. Mary’s Street

Please Register

Services for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People Provided


Livestreaming Available During Event

Cohosted with the School of Social Work Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health.

Social work and public health are both centrally concerned with the social determinants of health. This half-day symposium will explore how, together, social work and public health can improve population health, from individual-level to systemic change. We aim to generate ideas for future collaboration in scholarship, policy, and practice.

2.5 free social work CEUs available for in-person attendees


3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Jorge Delva, Dean, Boston University School of Social Work and Director and Paul Farmer Professor, Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health

Sandro Galea, Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor, Boston University School of Public Health

3:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.

Charles E. Lewis, Jr., President, Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy

3:45 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Community Health
Linda Sprague Martinez, Associate Professor, Boston University School of Social Work

Health Care
Jennifer Valenzuela, Principal of Equity and People, Health Leads (SSW ’00, SPH ’01)

Global Health
Fernando Ona, Clinical Associate Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University and Clinician, Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, Boston Medical Center (CAS ’92, SSW ’15)

Heidi Allen, Associate Professor, Columbia University School of Social Work

Educating Social Workers for Public Health
Betty J. Ruth, Clinical Professor and Director, MSW/MPH Program, Boston University School of Social Work (SSW ’84, SPH ’85)

Moderator: Harold Cox, Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health