Grant Will Fund Health Impact Assessment on Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance
The Baystate Banner
For years research has shown a link between low income and health problems, yet economic and labor policy decisions rarely take health considerations into account. That may soon change thanks to a new project launching in Boston.
The Boston Public Health Commission announced last week that it has received $100,000 for a demonstration project to conduct a Health Impact Assessment of Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance, and on proposals under consideration to expand it.
“Addressing the wage and income gap in Boston is a top priority for my administration. This project is an exciting opportunity to engage stakeholders on the important issue of wage equity, and to quantify the health impacts of enacting changes to Boston’s fair wage laws,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who was recently named vice chair of a U.S. Conference of Mayors task force on income inequality.
The grant funding was awarded by the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with additional funding from the de Beaumont Foundation. The Commission’s application was selected out of more than 200 that were submitted and is one of only 14 to be funded nationally.
HIA’s represent a relatively new tool to identify and address the likely health benefits and risks of a policy decision made outside the health sector field. It uses a flexible approach to gather public health, scientific and community input to inform significant public policy actions.
In partnership with the University of Massachusetts-Boston’s Center for Social Policy, the Commission’s 18-month HIA project will review the current Living Wage Ordinance’s health impact on Boston residents and examine the health consequences of a proposed expansion of the law. The assessment will look at health outcomes and costs related to the ordinance, with a particular focus on black, Latino and low-wage residents of the city, populations that experience well-documented health and income inequalities.
Francoise Carre, Director of the UMass Center for Social Policy said “We look forward to partnering with the city of Boston and the health department to build on our long history of studying employment and labor policies and the impact they have on inequities in the region.”
Specifically, the Commission will:
• Convene an advisory board of workers, elected leaders, labor organizations and economic policy analysts to help guide the project
• Review the latest research connecting wages to health impacts
• Analyze Boston-specific data on the burden of illness and injury by income, race and ethnicity
• Gather personal stories from low-wage workers in Boston who would be impacted by changing the current wage ordinance, and
• Share recommendations with the Mayor, City Council and other city agencies to help inform the public debate about the proposed changes to Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance.
“We know many of the factors that help determine person’s health are influenced by how much they earn, where they can afford to live and what they can afford to eat. This grant will help the Commission bring the voice of public health into the discussion and to offer policy makers new data and information to help support their work,” said Dr. Huy Nguyen, the Health Commission’s medical director, and interim executive director.
Enacted in 1998, Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance requires an hourly wage of $13.76, for employees working in businesses and organizations that do business with the City of Boston. The current ordinance covers city contracts in excess of $100,000 and contractors employing more than 25 hourly-paid employees.
Work on the HIA of the Living Wage Ordinance will begin immediately, with a final report expected in fall 2015.