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May 27, 2013

Peabody councilor questions Salem role in program

PEABODY — The notion that Peabody should be led by Salem caused at least one Leather City councilor to balk temporarily after hearing of a health program aimed at helping eight North Shore communities.

Anne Manning Martin eventually embraced the effort, but only after raising objections to Salem’s dominance in the plan, which is designed to alleviate asthma, particularly among children.

The North Shore Shared Public Health Service will spend $325,000 in grant money over four years in Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Danvers, Marblehead, Swampscott, Lynn and Nahant. The program was introduced by Peabody Health Director Sharon Campbell at a meeting of the City Council’s human services subcommittee.

Campbell noted the alarming rise in cases of asthma that this effort is expected to address.

“How is it that Salem is the lead municipality?” asked Manning Martin. “It seems that these days all roads lead to Salem. As a kid from Peabody I find that hard to accept.”

Funding has already been allocated to Salem, Manning Martin indicated. “Was it Mayor (Kim) Driscoll out front?” she asked. Meanwhile, she noted, jobs will follow, including positions as consultants.

“I’m all for ... shared services,” said the councilor. “If I was from Salem, I’d probably be very happy my city is the lead agency. ... I’m not happy we were elbowed out.”

“We didn’t get elbowed out,” Campbell replied. “It won’t make you happy ... but we actually were the lead in writing the grant.”

She downplayed the influence likely to flow to Salem. “There is a steering committee,” she said, “and I will be on the steering committee.” Leading the project, Campbell added, would require more attention than she would be able to give it.

Nurses from all eight communities will be involved with the effort, intended as a preventative, she said. Asthma is more likely to plague minority residents and children, she pointed out.

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