DPH and Mass. Lottery COVID vaccine initiative is expanding ‘the lens of public health’

By Upstateherd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Isabel Tehan
Boston University Statehouse Program

BOSTON — A “successful trial” offering COVID-19 vaccinations at state lottery locations is one of the fruits of an ongoing partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the state Lottery Commission to promote community health, officials said.

The clinics, hosted in New Bedford, Springfield, and Lawrence during the weekend of Jan. 9, were “effective at reaching [the] target audience,” said Victor Ortiz, director of DPH’s Office of Problem Gambling Services. Across locations, 68 adults received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 26% of recipients were Asian, he said, noting this is a group of Massachusetts residents who initially had lower rates of vaccination.

The three cities were selected based on COVID-19 rates in the communities, according to information obtained from the DPH, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority groups. The clinics were intended to reach people in a trusted community setting, especially for residents who had difficulty accessing traditional healthcare settings. The DPH characterized the effort as a success.

The DPH plans to replicate these clinics in the future, Ortiz told the commission at meeting last week. The dates and locations for the next offerings have not yet been decided.   State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg praised the partnership between the lottery and the DPH and its positive impact on health in the community.

“Vaccinations are critically important to public health,” she said.

Though the clinics were new, the collaboration between DPH and the lottery is not. Ortiz also presented results from standard annual initiatives, specifically the Holiday Campaign, which was geared towards dissuading adults from buying lottery tickets for children as gifts.

Gambling experiences in childhood increase the likelihood of developing a gambling addiction later in life, according to research from the National Council on Problem Gambling. The primary goal of the campaign, said Ortiz, was to communicate this with parents and other adults and reduce the gambling exposure among children.

March, Problem Gambling Awareness Month in Massachusetts, offered another opportunity to push their message, said Ortiz. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Massachusetts Lottery is one of the largest state lotteries in the country.

That, said Ortiz, is why it is critically important for the commonwealth to be a leader in preventative measures against problem gambling. DPH will share their methods and results from the COVID clinics and Holiday Campaign nationally in the coming months, said Ortiz, as they continue working on what comes next. “We are expanding the lens of what is part of public health.”  

This article originally appeared in South Coast Today.

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