FRCOG’s Phoebe Walker earns first Local Public Health Leadership Award

  • Phoebe Walker, director of community services for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, speaks at the Massachusetts Public Health Association’s Spring Awards Breakfast in Boston earlier this month, where she accepted the association’s first Local Public Health Leadership Award. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Phoebe Walker, director of community services for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, is flanked by Kristina Kimani, assistant policy director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, left, and Carlene Pavlos, the association’s executive director. Walker received the association’s first Local Public Health Leadership Award at the Spring Awards Breakfast held in Boston earlier this month. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Phoebe Walker, director of community services for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, receives a Massachusetts State Senate citation from Brian Rosman, state Sen. Jo Comerford’s legislative director. Walker received the Massachusetts Public Health Association’s first Local Public Health Leadership Award at a ceremony in Boston earlier this month. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/14/2022 6:48:12 PM
Modified: 6/14/2022 6:45:56 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ director of community services was recently honored with the Massachusetts Public Health Association’s first Local Public Health Leadership Award for her dedication to addressing the public health needs of the communities she serves.

Phoebe Walker accepted the award at the association’s Spring Awards Breakfast, held in Boston this month and attended by more than 250 health care and public health leaders from around the state. The association noted Walker’s leadership role in the multi-year statewide effort to reform the state’s local public health system.

“They told me about a month ... or two ago and I was very surprised because I had actually gotten a bunch of people to nominate somebody else for this award,” Walker told the Greenfield Recorder with a hearty laugh. “I was incredibly honored and really touched. … Honestly, I couldn’t believe it.”

Walker said she felt she was accepting the award for all FRCOG employees and all public health workers who have done a commendable job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When local boards of health have the state and local resources they need, to have professional staff to do that work, then they can really make the most of their constitutional powers and get involved in the kind of policy-setting equity work we all know we urgently need,” she said in her acceptance speech. “They can start taking action on preventing gun deaths, increasing food access and affordable housing, age-friendly community planning, tick-borne disease prevention, substance use prevention and more.”

Walker, who started her career in public health with FRCOG 28 years ago, thanked her parents (especially her mother, who came to America as an immigrant in 1969 and later served on her local planning board); the hard-working board of health members, health agents and public health nurses across the state; the Massachusetts Public Health Association for its work; state Sen. Jo Comerford “for always listening when I called to rail about another crazy COVID decision from the state,” and FRCOG Executive Director Linda Dunlavy.

Four other health equity leaders also received awards from the Massachusetts Public Health Association. The association’s highest honor, the Paul Revere Award for Lifetime Achievement, was given to Dr. Ashish Jha, who served as dean of the Brown University School of Public Health until he was recently appointed by President Joe Biden as the coordinator of the national COVID-19 response.

The Catalyst for Justice Award was presented jointly to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, for centering equity in public health policy and practice. Lastly, Chien-Chi Huang, executive director of Asian Women for Health, received the Lemuel Shattuck Award in recognition of her significant contributions to public health.

“These five inspiring individuals have made tremendous contributions — both to the field of public health and to the effort to achieve health equity in our commonwealth,” Massachusetts Public Health Association Executive Director Carlene Pavlos said in a press release. “Their passion, dedication and unwavering commitment are helping to create a more just and equitable Massachusetts.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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