Breast Cancer Awareness Month


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect women in the United States. Early detection is vital and provides the greatest possibility for successful treatment. When breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100% (National Breast Cancer Foundation, 2017). A good early detection plan is one that incorporates monthly breast self- exams, routine clinical breast exams, and following guidelines and healthcare providers’ recommendations around mammograms. Additionally, although there is no known prevention method for breast cancer, there are several lifestyle factors, that are directly linked with optimum breast health. This includes the consumption of a balanced diet, routine exercise, limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco products and maintaining a healthy weight.

Prevention methods, treatment, and outcomes have all improved as a result of the support and advocacy of those individuals, organizations, and public officials both locally, and on a national level. To continue to fight against breast cancer, the support cannot dissipate. It is because of the continued awareness and support gained,  that has made this a priority issue and one that has raised funds to reduce the risk of cancer, provided the infrastructure for programming, and created opportunities for groundbreaking research to evolve. There are various ways to get involved, and your participation is vital. In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s continue to actively fight against breast cancer. To learn more about how to get involved, please check out the following resources:

The Dana Farber Cancer Institute Mammography Van will  be at Neponset Health Center on October 20, 2017. Current patients can book an appointment on the van by calling 617-282-3200.

Marissa Goldman-Halpin, MSW
Women’s Health Manager, Neponset Health Center

Harbor Community Health Center Hyannis Celebrates Annual Healthy Harvest

As summer fades to fall, Harbor Community Health Center-Hyannis prepares to host its annual Healthy Harvest celebration at their Attucks Lane location on September 24th. This free event has  gotten bigger each year and next Saturday’s event is no different. With a bounce house, games, dancing, and the very popular Bubble Station returning, kids of all ages will have a blast. Free health screenings will be available for children and adults. This year’s Harvest Partner is Boston Medical Center Healthnet Plan. The event is also sponsored by Caregiver Homes, The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Hope Health, Neighborhood Health Plan, and the Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston.



The Thrill, the Agony and all that

2016_1Whether one loves or hates the Olympics, or tries to simply ignore the whole thing (good luck with that), what stands out is how much that whole fabulous enterprise is about story.  The day-to-day professional sports that are part of modern living (just try to ignore them!) come with their share of story, but most of that story involves winning and losing and how much money is made and what factors will affect future winning and/or losing.  With the Olympics it is still foremost about winning (hey, this is sports!) but we also get a whole lot more backstory, which usually tends to feature a triumph-over-adversity theme, adversity arriving in any number of ways, be it poverty or ugly politics or tragic family circumstances, or straying from the good and true and finding one’s way back again, Michael Phelps and his DUI being an extremely-reported example. 

Whatever facilitates the triumph tends to be the part of the story woven with mostly common threads:  hard work, talent, luck (never mentioned but ever present nonetheless), and the timely support of others:  families, mentors, teachers, somebody providing money.  It can get pretty inspiring, which is the whole point.  At the Olympics, there is undeniably much inspiration to be found in every story of every athlete who simply qualifies for the games, and it is unfortunate we tend to only hear about those finishing in the medals, and only the American winners, at that.  It is likely many of the untold stories might be the better ones, in terms of inspiration.  Those working in Behavioral Health listen to stories all day long;  it’s a big part of the job.  Many of the stories we hear are easily as inspiring, some represent equal or even greater triumphs over adversity than those that come out of the Olympics.  You won’t hear those stories on NBC anytime soon;  the authors of those stories probably wouldn’t want that anyway.  But it would be a more inspiring world if there were more of a democracy of stories, if more of us were aware that there are far more heroes in our midst than just the talented ones we see on TV.

John Dabrowski LICSW
Neponset Health Center
Geiger Gibson Community Health Center 

WIC Celebrates National WIC Breastfeeding Week by Honoring Model Programs in the Northeast Region

wic_logo4The HHSI Dorchester South/ South Boston WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Program was awarded The Loving Support Awards of Excellence for exemplary efforts in supporting breastfeeding WIC mothers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA awards are part of USDA’s National WIC Breastfeeding Week, celebrated August 1-7)

WIC agencies that utilize the USDA Loving Support Model for a successful peer counseling program were eligible to apply for the honor, which considers their breastfeeding performance measures, effective peer counseling programs and community partnerships.  9 of the 83 local WIC agencies across the country that qualified for an award are located in Northeast region.

The Dorchester South/South Boston WIC program was one of only two program to receive the highest honor – the Gold Premiere award.

The Breastfeeding Peer Counselling Program also known as the called the Mother to Mother Program was first implemented by the Dorchester South/South Boston WIC program in 2007. The program is run by peer counselors; the peer counselors are women who have participated in the WIC program, have breastfed their children and who are interested in helping other moms succeed in their breastfeeding goals. The Peer Counselors receive specialized training in breastfeeding support and are given the opportunity to train as Certified Lactation Consultants.

Although we initially started with one peer counselor, we know have 4 peer counselors who speak Hattian Creole, Vietnamese, Spanish and English. Our language capabilities allow us to serve all our mothers in a more culturally competent way.

Our Peers work both from home and in the office so they are available to their moms anytime they are needed including nights and weekend. They also run Breast feeding classes and Happiest Baby on the Block classes.  Our Vietnamese Peer Counselor Thy Nguyen was recognized by the State WIC office for her Vietnamese mothers group that she runs every Tuesday and is packed to capacity!

Our breast feeding initiation rate is currently 92.7% higher than the state average is 80.7% – a testament to the true value of our Breastfeeding Program. All these effort are overseen by our longtime Breastfeeding Coordinator Susan Hardiman.

Abudances, Perspectives


It’s safe to say that at any given point in time, there’s always an abundance of something.  Before dismissing that statement as self-evident or overly simplistic, one can amend it to say that abundance is always in flux.  This gets more interesting.  Contemplating abundance is one good way to break away from one’s usual preoccupations-of-the-moment (the Red Sox season, the Facebook page, worries inspired by today’s headlines) and to go for a broader perspective, if only briefly.  Call it an exercise in greater awareness, never a bad thing. 

Doing this the week of the 4th of July, consider it a move towards a kind of freedom, of what sort remaining to be seen.  For starters, try acknowledging the natural world, currently awash in an abundance of light and warmth and occasional godawful heat.  Be aware that you are currently surrounded by an abundance of birds, the highest numbers of the year, as the adults are joined by newborns trying to make their way in the world.  Many won’t make it very far, such is nature – those first weeks of life are tough ones, and the attrition will continue steadily, right into next Spring when the whole cycle begins again, as it has for millennia.  Massachusetts is also currently witnessing an abundance of gypsy moths, the worst outbreak since 1981, to which thousands of leafless trees bear witness.  A drive out the Mass Pike can be sobering, spectacular in a kind of grim way.  Maybe more impressive is the fact that the trees aren’t dead, a testimony to nature’s resilience, at least for this year. 

Moving beyond this planet, the recent arrival of a human-sourced spacecraft at Jupiter’s front door, five years and 540 million miles distant, is a dramatic reminder of the incomprehensible abundance of space and time that characterizes our universe, one in which Jupiter happens to be a very close neighbor.  Modern astrophysics suggests that our known universe may be only one among many, an abundance of abundance.  Try to get your mind around that perspective!   That the human mind can conceive of such a thing is remarkable in itself.  Even more remarkable is how that same human mind, yours and this BH consultant’s included, can get so tripped up by an abundance of negative thoughts of every conceivable sort, that too often serve no other purpose than to make us suffer unnecessarily.  The irony is that in spite of our ability to shift perspectives when we so choose, the one perspective we struggle with (or simply lack) is the one that can provide a healthy distance from all these thoughts, at least sometimes. 

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the local mindfulness guy, talks of “an inner spaciousness” that can be achieved with enough diligent, focused effort, and that this can be transformational.   He has seen it in cancer patients, among the many people he has treated.  It sounds like an abundance of some kind, but of what?  It probably can’t be put in words. 

John Dabrowski  LICSW
Neponset Health Center
Geiger Gibson Community Health Center