2022 Election Q&A with Susan Koch-Weser, candidate for Milton Board of Health
The Milton Scene gave all 2022 Town-Wide candidates the opportunity to respond to the following questions via our Candidate Questionnaire.
Why are you running for this position?
I have extensive training and experience in public health and would like to bring that expertise to the Board of Health. Public health is the science and art of preventing disease – this is different than health care, which individuals mostly use when they are already ill . Public health looks at data and evidence and addresses root causes of ill health so that whole communities can live their healthiest lives.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Board (or Town Meeting) you are running for and why?
The Health Department in Milton recently received funding to conduct a community health assessment. Collecting the data, analyzing it, and developing strategic plans to address any needs uncovered will require public health expertise. I would like to serve now so that I can contribute to our assessment and strategic planning process. I believe the biggest challenge in the initial phases will be making sure that the process is inclusive and that we hear from all constituencies in Milton.
What are your proposed ideas or solutions to this big challenge?
I will bring up-to-date, best practices in community assessment and strategic planning to the Board of Health.
What are your ideas and/or proposed solutions regarding the problem of overcrowding in Milton Public Schools?
All policies have implications for community health. I believe the quality of our children’s schools is an important component of their health, and any proposed solutions should take their health into account.
What are Milton’s housing and development opportunities and what should be prioritized in an effort to address them?
The built environment is an important determinant of health. I would like to see development in Milton that promotes opportunities for social engagement, walkability, and green space for exercise and relaxation. We also need to address the affordability crisis when it comes to housing so that we can maintain our diverse community when it comes to income.
What is your position on Accessory Dwelling Units?
As a member of the Board of Health I would not vote on this issue.
What suggestions do you have for improving communication between Town boards and residents?
I believe the town website could potentially be made more user-friendly. However, a lot of the information about boards, agendas, and minutes is already there, as is contact information for board members. Perhaps boards could rotate their meetings to venues around town and publicize them more so that interested residents could attend more easily.
How do you suggest the Town move forward with the MBTA Community law?
I hope that the Planning Board fully investigates the options and discusses the implications with residents. I do not yet fully understand this issue and hope that we can have constructive, community-wide dialog before we have to make any final decisions.
Do you have any specific thoughts on Milton’s budget?
Not at this time.
What have you done to further your knowledge about diversity and/or foster diversity either in Milton or in other settings?
The field of public health has been researching health disparities and health equity, and I have learned the skills necessary to collect and analyze data to understand and address disparities. Part of my research has focused on Asian health and I have conducted community surveys and projects seeking to address disparities in Lowell and Boston’s Chinatown. In particular, I have worked on data equity, if we can better document with data what is happening, we can better understand and address disparities.
How does your experience match the position you’re running for?
I am trained in public health and the Board of Health deals with public health.
How do you problem solve and manage all voices?
In community settings problem solving necessarily involves a lot of listening. It is important to understand multiple perspectives on a topic, and when possible find the common values and goals that the most people will be willing to pursue. I am a pragmatic person and want to start where people are – making acceptable changes that will move the community toward better health. Public health is a long process and problems are complex and have multiple causes. We are never going to be able to do everything all at once.
Any additional information?
I have lived in Milton for 18 years with my husband and two children. My boys attend Milton Highschool (although not for much longer he is a senior) and Pierce Middle School (although not for much longer – he is off to MHS). I have served on the board of Discovery Schoolhouse, been a member of the Milton Coalition almost since it started, and I was on the Milton Youth Task Force when we set up the Wildcat Den. I have enjoyed contributing to our community and hope you give me the opportunity to do more as a member of the Board of Health.