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Shutesbury lauded by state for health promotion

SHUTESBURY — Shutesbury earned the Massachusetts Public Health Association’s “Healthy By Design” award recognizing its accomplishments in promoting public health.

Shutesbury was one of 11 communities across the state to receive the award, which was presented to Selectboard Chairwoman Elaine Puleo during a ceremony last month in the House Members Lounge of the Statehouse in Boston.

“We really wanted to highlight some of the great work going on in local communities who are using what we call the built environment — zoning tools, land use decisions, work on transportation systems and master planning tools — to help promote public health,” said Public Health Association spokeswoman Maddie Ribble. “All of those tools have a big impact on people’s health.”

Shutesbury was one of about three dozen communities to be nominated for the award. The association cited the passage of zoning law reforms, measures to protect open space and the promotion of rural business development in the town as being among the reasons it selected Shutesbury.

“Shutesbury really rose to the top for everyone in terms of doing really innovative things for a rural community around smart growth planning,” Ribble said. “In their new zoning ordinance, they’ve created these planning districts that really plan for development and housing in certain parts of town and preservation in other parts of town. That’s really smart planning, rather than have it be ad-hoc.”

Ribble also praised Shutesbury’s work to provide affordable housing, noting that stable and affordable housing is necessary for a healthy community.

“They can’t be healthy if they don’t have somewhere to live. Hopefully what they’re doing will serve as a model for other rural communities and small towns to take a look at,” Ribble said.

Puleo, a faculty member with the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said she appreciates the recognition.

“We were the smallest community to receive the award, so it’s nice to see that they gave a rural community such a distinction,” she said.

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