By Alan Burke
---- — 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.
“One of the major triggers is pests in the house,” she said. Thus, part of the effort will be urging landlords to get rid of them.
After the funding runs out, Campbell explained, it is hoped that a good result will convince cities and towns to continue it, perhaps on their own. Councilor Arthur Athas raised concerns that this could leave the city obligated to continue the spending.
Campbell replied that instead, “It would be up to us to go back to our cities and convince them that this is a model that works.”
More grants could materialize as a result of engaging in the program. In fact, said Campbell, the city has already obtained grants as a result of its work developing the program.
In the end, it was Campbell’s confidence that convinced Manning Martin to support it. “I trust you tremendously to do a good job,” she told the director. “I am not pleased that you are not in the lead. ... But if it comes with your approval, it’s got mine.”
Campbell asserted that she supports the program “absolutely,” adding that it makes sense to take an approach involving other communities. “We all have the same type of health issues, the same chronic diseases.”
The proposal won unanimous support from the subcommittee.