Daily News

Jessica Collins Takes Reins at Partners for a Healthier Community

SPRINGFIELD — Jessica Collins has been appointed interim executive director of Partners for a Healthier Community (PHC).

Collins is an eight-year veteran of the Springfield-based public-health institute, where she has been serving as deputy director. She is an advocate for social justice and health equity. To that end, she worked, in collaboration with Dr. Kathleen Szegda and others, to develop Springfield’s inaugural Health Equity Report, released in 2014. The report identifies poverty as one of the prime factors contributing to health inequity among vulnerable populations. It also provides data and context for dialogue around racial and ethnic health inequities that exist throughout the region.

“Health inequities are now well-documented among vulnerable populations, including people of color, members of the LGBT community, and people with disabilities.” said Collins. “It’s important to distinguish equity from equality. Health equity means treating everyone fairly.”

According the Rev. Karen Rucks, the PHC board president, “Jessica is a known and trusted public health figure in the Pioneer Valley and throughout the state. During her tenure at PHC, she has provided leadership for a number of high-profile initiatives, such as the Health Equity Report and Live Well Springfield.”

Partners was recently named a member of the National Network for Public Health Institutes. “Membership in this prestigious health network provides opportunities for Partners to strengthen our research and evaluation expertise, as well as access national funding sources in order to create sustainable solutions for the many health disparities that plague people in our region,” said Collins.

Prior to coming to PHC, Collins’ experience included leading community-based participatory research projects focused on the prevention of childhood obesity in Cambridge and Somerville. First Lady Michelle Obama lauded the success of Shape Up Somerville. Other nationally recognized community health initiatives led by Collins include efforts to address substance abuse and suicide prevention, as well as preschool oral health. She also served as a community health practitioner in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer.