Introducing Dot Rx, a program of coaches preaching healthy habits

Mayor's Office photo by Jeremiah Robinson

Mayor Martin Walsh joined Andrew Dreyfus, the president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, at the Daily Table’s Teaching Kitchen on Washington Street on Monday to celebrate the launch of Dot Rx, a prescription-based program that seeks to engage residents in adopting healthy eating and living habits.

The low-to-no-cost program pairs families with peer coaches who act as intermediaries and offer step-by-step guidance for eating healthy and leading active lifestyles.

Rather than prescribing a drug, clinicians at Codman Square Health Center prescribe peer coaches and set up individualized nutrition and exercise goals. By partnering with local organizations like Healthworks Community Fitness, Daily Table, Outdoors Rx, and the Dorchester Y, Dot Rx aims to offer a holistic wellness program based on accessible community resources.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has committed $1 million over two years to help develop the program. On Monday, the mayor noted that the insurance provider’s role at the center of Dot Rx makes the program particularly innovative.

“It’s one of the first times in the country, if not the first time, that we’ve had a health insurer along with a community provider along with a local health center doing something [together], and really thinking about how to improve people’s health, not by going to the doctor and getting a prescription, but by getting a health prescription,” said Walsh.

Dreyfus described the program as a preemptive approach to healthcare. “We spend way too much on healthcare and not enough on health,” Dreyfus explained. “What I mean by that is we spend too much trying to deal with the consequences of illness and disease and not enough preventing them. And this program and others like it is just about that. It’s about trying to get to people and families early, trying to solve health problems before they become healthcare problems.”

The program has already seen success during its pilot stage, which began last October, observers say.

“Our goal was to write 100 prescriptions by April, and we’re already at 150,” said Sandra Cotterell, the CEO of Codman Square Health Center.

The mayor and representatives from each of the program’s partners marked the official launch of Dot Rx with a cooking class where they made granola bars, touting them as an example of a healthy, portable, and easy-to-make snack. As Cotterell explained, the cooking class represented just one of the many resources the program would provide to Dorchester residents.

“Healthy living goes beyond the medical setting— providing patients with the resources to improve their health and quality of life through healthy cooking classes, fitness classes, and group nature walks is just as important.”

All Dorchester families with at least one child under the age of 18 and one family member who is a patient at Codman Square Health Center meet the criteria to qualify for the program. Prescriptions are available through a referral from a CSHC physician.