We Can!® City: Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), Boston Steps

"Little bitty changes have really made a big difference in all of our lives,"
�Ivonne Borrero, BPHC-We Can! Parent Program participant


Boston has always been a source of great change, from the revolutionary Boston Tea Party in 1773 until November 29, 2007�that's the day that Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino designated as We Can! Day, right after committing New England's largest city to becoming a We Can! City.

It was the culmination of two years of hard work by the BPHC, a We Can! Founding Intensive Site since 2005. The story of BPHC's success follows. Click on the links below to jump to certain sections.

Key Successes

Prior to its first day as a We Can! Founding Intensive Community Site, BPHC has been cultivating strong and lasting partnerships with the community organizations that are essential to the successful implementation of parent and youth programs for Boston's large and diverse community. Funding through CDC's Steps to a Healthier US initiative provided the foundation on which BPHC built its We Can! program.

In addition to constant cultivation of new partnerships, the BPHC continues to build a stable of local trainers for the We Can! Parent Program. Trainers help run We Can! programming at various locations around Boston.

Another area in which the BPHC has been particularly effective is the promotion of its We Can! successes through participation in, and staging of, national and regional events. The We Can! celebration that launched Boston as an official We Can! City in November 2007 is an example of one of them.

This multi-pronged approach has allowed the BPHC to create a solid, multifaceted program that continues to expand and assist families across Boston, especially in at-risk communitiesexternal disclaimer.

A member of the Hispanic community, Bostonian Ivonne Borrero participated in the We Can! Parent Program as a way to help her overweight 11-year-old son. She was astounded by the impact the program has made on both of them.

Ivonne Borrero

"Little bitty changes have really made a big difference in all of our lives," said Borrero. "Recently I was surprised and thrilled to see my son ask for a wrap sandwich, instead of a burger, during a visit to the mall. He also voluntarily gave up some of the candy from his Halloween bag."

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  • The BPHC offers the We Can! Parent Program at many locations around the city. In an effort to help organizations boost their parent programs, the BPHC provided a free We Can! Train-the-Trainer workshop for area dietitians, nutritionists, and health educators in September 2008.
  • The BPHC also helped extend the We Can! Parent Program to Spanish speakers, by translating the program curricula and resources into Spanish. View these and other Spanish-language materials.
  • Diversity is key. The BPHC makes sure to recruit trainers from a broad and representative array of community organizations that speak to a variety of ethnic audiences including those of African American, Caribbean, and Latino heritage. Organizations contact BPHC staff and sites are matched with a trainer that meets the organizational, cultural and linguistic needs.
  • Recognizing the toll that the rising cost of food and fuel might take on local diets this winter, our Boston site also hosted an event that gave low-income families tips for eating well and staying healthy on a smaller budget. This program utilized We Can! nutrition-tracking materials, and parents in the program were encourage to sign up for the We Can! Parent Program.

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  • Some BPHC partners in the We Can! Parent Program and youth activities are:
    • Children's Hospital-Boston
    • Northeastern University
    • Body by Brandy (a local gym)
    • YMCA of Greater Boston
    • Head Start of Boston
    • Boston Public Schools
    • Community health centers
  • Community partners provide space for holding classes, childcare support, recruitment assistance, and incentives for participation in classes (i.e., discounted family membership to community recreational sites).

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Outreach & Events

  • In February 2008, BPHC Site Leader Kathy Cunningham, M.Ed., R.D., L.D., spread the word about Boston's We Can! programming through a webcast hosted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials. You can see it at http://webcasts.naccho.org/session-archived.php?id=1168.
  • The BPHC shared key insights and tips from the field during the December 2007 �Getting Started with the Parent Program� We Can! Power Talk.
  • It was a two-for-one deal in November 2007, at an event announcing Boston's entry into the We Can! fold as an official We Can! City, and also a new partnership between the Association of Children's Museums and We Can!. Former Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni, and former National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Director Dr. Elizabeth Nabel joined Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at the Boston Children's Museum, for both announcements.
  • We Can! Program Officer Karen Donato, S.M., and Kathy Cunningham, M.Ed., R.D., L.D., Boston's We Can! City site leader, co-presented We Can! to more than 400 dietitians at the American Dietetic Association annual meeting (September 2007.)

Contact Information

For more information on Boston's We Can! platform, please send a letter to or visit their website:

Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Avenue
6th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02118

For additional contact information, send an email to nhlbiinfo@nhlbi.nih.gov.

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Last Updated: February 13, 2013