- Initially a childhood obesity intervention, Shape-Up Somerville has become a leading example of community health promotion through environmental change.
- The program’s Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) methods mean that community members define their greatest needs and therefore shape program design.
- Shape-Up Somerville has strong partnerships with public, private, and non-profit partners throughout the community.
- Somerville has been named the Healthiest City in Massachusetts and one of the Top 10 most Walkable Cities in the U.S.
- Even as Somerville becomes a more desirable place to live, Shape- Up Somerville continues to work to address health disparities and serve low-income populations.
Shape Up Somerville, which began in 2002 as a three-year research study on rates of overweight and obesity in schoolchildren, is a multi-faceted initiative that has expanded with the aim to build a healthier, more equitable environment for the entire Somerville community. In order to achieve this vision, Shape Up Somerville partners with a variety of municipal offices and non-governmental organizations to create environmental changes such as increased mileage of bike lanes, institutionalization of bicycle and pedestrian safety trainings for all children in the Somerville Public Schools, and undertaking a collaborative Food System Assessment to determine next steps in improving healthy, culturally-appropriate food access. A number of on-the-ground programs also stem from this initiative, including: the Somerville Mobile Farmers’ Market van and bike cart which deliver healthy, culturally-relevant foods to locations with poor food access; an annual Mayor’s Wellness Challenge promoting healthy opportunities around the city; and a healthy restaurant program in which restaurants produce a specific Shape Up menu or use the SUS logo next to particular dishes on the menu following a nutritionist’s approval. Various studies have examined the efficacy of the Shape Up Somerville program. Notably, 7.8% of Somerville residents commuted by bicycle in 2014 (one of the highest proportions in the country), compared to 2% in 1990. One study found a decrease in obesity in Somerville from 30% to 28% in students between 2010 and 2011. Another study reported that the BMI percentile for Somerville children decreased by one point compared to comparison control communities without the prevention program between 2003 and 2004.
- Chomitz, Virginia R, et al., A Decade of Shape Up Somerville: Assessing Child Obesity Measures 2002-2011. Shape Up Somerville, 2012. www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/shape-up-somerville-bmi-report.pdf.; Sara C. Folta et al., “Changes in Diet and Physical Activity Resulting from the Shape Up Somerville Community Intervention,” BMC Pediatrics 13, no. 1 (2013): 157, doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-157.; Chomitz, Virgina R, et al. Shape Up Somerville: Building and Sustaining a Healthy Community. Shape Up Somerville, 2013. www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/shape-up-somerville-story.pdf.
- “Urban Health Promotion: Selected Case Studies on Diabetes” (C3: Collaborating for Health, December 17, 2015), http://www.c3health.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Urban-health-promotion-and-diabetes-book-FINAL1.pdf.