COH Site

Danvers, Massachusetts


A midsized town incorporated in 1757, Danvers is just 20 miles from Boston, New England’s largest city.

Originally a farming community, Danvers’ industrial base shifted to shoe manufacturing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, skilled manufacturing plays an important role in the local economy, as does health care and education. Unemployment is low—just 3.6% compared with 4.9% for the state of Massachusetts—while educational attainment and median income are higher compared with the state and the nation. Residents of Danvers are generally prosperous. Many are highly educated, reflecting eastern Massachusetts’ confluence of high technology, education, and health care. Although Danvers is overwhelmingly white, educational attainment and median income among minority populations living in Danvers exceed state and national averages for these populations.

Massachusetts is one of 10 “home rule” states, which limits state control over some local matters. Thus, like other Massachusetts communities, Danvers enjoys a certain degree of autonomy, which contributes to a culture of citizen engagement. Danvers’ town government offers many opportunities for citizen input and participation. Elections are held annually, when nearly 150 town meeting members are elected to three-year terms on a rolling basis; volunteers also serve on a range of boards and commissions.

  • Overview

    Population and Demographics

    Population: 27,000

    U.S. Census Bureau; Town of Danvers

  • Context and Actions

    Community Context and Challenges

    • In Essex County, where Danvers is located, unintentional deaths from opioid overdose increased from 48 in 2010 to 146 in 2014; Essex County now has the fourth highest number of opioid-related deaths in the state.
    • Residents enjoy nearly universal (98%) health insurance coverage and access to health providers.
    • Danvers provides shelter for approximately 8% of the 2,100 homeless families in the state who live in motel housing, sparking criticism from some residents who believe Danvers bears a heavy burden in housing homeless families.

    U.S. Census Bureau. (2014). 2010–2014 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates.

    Taking Action

    While health indicators for Danvers residents often exceed state and national averages, the community is no less committed to improving population health.

    Local initiatives to improve public health, wellness, and access to physical activity underscore Danvers’ responsiveness to community input.

    These baseline reports, created in 2016, reflect our initial observations on select community programs and initiatives to gauge ongoing, as well as newer, efforts to improve community health. Future reports will provide more in-depth insights and analysis into this community's activities.

    Statewide Progressive Health Tradition

    An informed and engaged population and a statewide progressive health tradition has contributed to successful efforts to improve health and well-being. For example, Danvers banned smoking in hospitals and in public places in 1995, a decade before Massachusetts enacted similar legislation. A strong tradition of citizen participation may help Danvers in efforts to address complex social and health challenges outside the immediate community, including homelessness and opioid abuse. 


    In 2015, with support from DanversCARES, a community-based coalition that supports school-based health and physical education efforts, the Danvers Board of Health raised the age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. Formed in the mid-1990s DanversCARES is sponsored by the Danvers public school Department and is funded by state and federal grants and local donations. Organizations that participate in Danvers cares include local schools and government, police, faith-based organizations and businesses. 

    Danvers Rail Trail

    Following a historic rail line that once carried passengers from Danvers to Boston, the five-mile Danvers Rail Trail today is used for walking, biking and running. Federal funds supported its construction, but the community has developed creative approaches to support its maintenance.

    Comprehensive Health Reform

    Massachusetts enacted a comprehensive health reform law in 2006 that expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income residents and made state subsidized private health insurance available for residents who did not qualify for Medicaid. In 2010, before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, portions of which were modeled on the Massachusetts law, uninsured rates in the United States exceeded 14%, compared with 6% for Massachusetts.

  • Going Forward

    Questions for Consideration

    Danvers’ history of civic engagement has produced successes in promoting public health and well-being. Additional surveillance, data and information gathering, analysis, and reporting will examine the extent to which community engagement can be successfully applied to more complex health challenges, such as homelessness and addiction.

    The following questions provide opportunities for further exploration:

    • To what extent have challenges evident in surrounding communities, such as opioid overdose, affected residents of Danvers? To what extent have established community groups, such as DanversCARES, developed a response?
    • What impact has the collaboration between Danvers, Gloucester, and Beverly had on reducing the rate of unintentional deaths from opioid overdose? Which initiatives have been particularly successful?
    • How successful have the recent rules been to raise the legal age of tobacco purchase to 21 and restrict use of tanning beds to age 18? What levels of enforcement have been required?
    • With the reduction in homeless families living in area motels, has Danvers addressed some of the social and economic challenges of the area’s homeless or near-homeless populations? To what extent have local or regional efforts emerged to find affordable housing or employment for these residents?
  • Downloads

    Community Snapshot Report

    Community Portrait Report

    Community Landscape Report