Bmore Healthy Blog

Note From The Commissioner: Legislation on the Right Side of History

Monday was the final day of the Maryland General Assembly. We are excited about several priority bills the legislature passed, including efforts to ensure affordable access to healthcare, to reduce gun violence, and to advance maternal and child health. Our team at the Baltimore City Health Department provided testimony on no less than 27 bills, including the Maryland Health Care Access Act of 2018 (HB1782/SB387); Pharmacist Gag Rule Bill (HB736/SB576); Maryland Prenatal and Infant Care Coordination Services Grant Program Fund (Thrive by Three Fund) (HB1685/SB912); and the Maryland Violence Intervention and Prevention Program Fund Bill (HB432/SB0545). We are grateful to our representatives in Annapolis for recognizing the need to fight for health coverage for all Marylanders, and for standing on the right side of history.

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Note From The Commissioner: Making Public Health Visible

At a commencement ceremony several years ago, Dr. Linda Rae Murray, then-president of the American Public Health Association (APHA), recounted a famous saying: “When public health works, we’re invisible.” She followed that by urging the graduates to “refuse to be invisible, because […] we need to lend our strength and our science to broad social movements whose goal is to make things better.”

When public health is invisible, we only end up talking about it when things go wrong; people tend to think about public health agencies as entities that respond to infectious disease outbreaks or shut down a restaurant due to health code violations. We frequently think about health as healthcare, but what determines how long and how well we live is less about what happens in the doctor’s office and more about where we live, the air we breathe, and the availability of other resources in our communities. At the Baltimore City Health Department, we believe that all issues – education, housing, employment, public safety, and beyond – can and should be tied back to health. We are committed to making the progress earned through public health visible, and to make the case for incorporating health-in-all policies across the City.

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Note From The Commissioner: Stabilization Center Announcement

Yesterday, I joined Mayor Catherine Pugh and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford to announce plans for the first Stabilization Center in Maryland—the beginning of Baltimore’s efforts to create a 24/7 “ER” for addiction and mental health. Mayor Pugh and Chief of Operations Pete Hammen have championed the Stabilization Center from when they were in the State Legislature; they were instrumental to Baltimore City securing the $3.6 million for capital costs for the Center. Mayor Pugh is truly at the forefront of leaders across the country to call for science-based, compassion treatment of individuals with the disease of addiction.

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Note From The Commissioner: Virtual Supermarket Launch

On Monday, we announced the launch of our 14th Virtual Supermarket site at Ruscombe Gardens, a residential center for seniors. Our Virtual Supermarket program provides easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables for those living in Healthy Food Priority Areas across the City. Since the Health Department launched the Virtual Supermarket program in 2010, nearly $600,000 worth of groceries have been purchased, with 43 percent of customers buying more fruits and vegetables. I joined our partners at Shoprite to distribute groceries to the residents and to discuss the importance of this program in helping Baltimoreans make the healthy choice the easy choice.

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Public Health Heroes Spotlight: Chronic Disease Prevention Team’s Community Asthma Program

The Health Department’s Chronic Disease Prevention team operates the Community Asthma Program (CAP), an intervention strategy aimed at reducing the number of children and youth in Baltimore between the ages of 2 and 18 who have trouble controlling their asthma. Through CAP, community health workers offer asthma education and visit the homes of young asthma patients.

Asthma

Note From The Commissioner: Advancing Public Health in Baltimore, and Maryland

The Baltimore City Health Department is active in Annapolis testifying in support of bills that will advance public health in Baltimore City and across Maryland. Members of our team testified in favor of a House bill that will establish a Drug Cost Review Commission, which would be responsible for setting fair rates for high cost prescription drugs in Maryland and increasing transparency in drug pricing. We also voiced our support for a Senate bill that will require state and local correctional facilities to have written policies in place concerning medical care for pregnant inmates.

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Note From The Commissioner: Fighting for our Girls, Women, & Families

This week, Baltimore City announced that we will be joining a lawsuit against President Trump, challenging his Administration’s cut in federal funding for evidence-based reproductive health education programs.

In July 2017, the Health Department received notice from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health that the grant period for Baltimore City’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program would be terminated two years early. This amounts to a reduction in overall funding from $8.6 million to $5.1 million – a cut of $3.5 million.

This funding cut will result in reduced access to evidence-based teen pregnancy curricula for 20,000 students in Baltimore, creating a vacuum in critical health education for thousands of vulnerable teens. It eliminates the capacity to train teachers in evidence-based reproductive health education and jeopardizes our Youth Advisory Council—Baltimore City teens who act as peer health advocates.

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Note From The Commissioner: Making the Healthy Choice, the Easy Choice

As a doctor, it used to be that I treated only adults with chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. But now, I treat teenagers as young as 13 with these conditions. These kids grow up to be adults who will suffer and die from heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in our City. In Baltimore, one-in-three high school children are obese. It’s no coincidence that one-in-four school-aged children drink one or more soda per day. Public health leaders and doctors agree: sugary drinks are a major contributor to childhood obesity. Taking these empty calories out of children’s diets is the single biggest change parents can make.

Two years ago, I fought to protect our residents by supporting legislation in the Baltimore City Council that places warning labels on all sugary drink advertisements, restaurant menus, and stores that sell these drinks. The warning label included important facts about the dangers of sugary drinks and would have leveled the information playing field for consumers. Yet, despite the support of over 2,000 pediatricians, public health leaders, and advocates, the bill failed.

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Public Health Heroes: Maternal and Infant Care Program’s Nurse Family Partnership

The Health Department’s Maternal and Infant Care program (M&I), operates the national Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) home visiting model to help low-income, first-time mothers have healthy pregnancies and successful birth and aftercare outcomes

Maternal Health Blog

Note From The Commissioner: Protecting the ACA

As an emergency physician, I treated patients before and after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Before the ACA, I routinely saw dozens of uninsured patients every single day. They were uninsured not because they didn’t want insurance or believed they didn’t need it, but because they couldn’t afford it. I treated Sarah, a 47-year old nurse’s aide, who was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread throughout her body. Had she been insured, her cancer could have been detected earlier, and she might have been cured. Instead, Sarah died six months after her diagnosis, leaving her three young children without their mother.

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