Bmore Healthy Blog

Public Health Heroes: The Baltimore City Health Department Hearing and Vision Team

The Baltimore City Health Department’s Hearing and Vision Team has provided 20,000 state-mandated hearing and vision screening services to students at first entry into Baltimore City Public Schools and during the 3rd and 8th grades. 

Hearing and Vision Team

Note From The Commissioner: Public Health Leaders of Today and Tomorrow

This week, I was incredibly honored to deliver the Convocation address for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Class of 2018 on Tuesday. During Convocation, 916 graduates from 61 countries were awarded their degrees—153 doctoral degrees and 74 master's. These are the public health leaders of today and tomorrow!

The Bloomberg School’s mission is the cornerstone of public health – saving lives, millions at a time. This is the dedication to being the society’s doctor, and it’s exemplified through the leadership of Dean Ellen Mackenzie. This Convocation was Dr. Mackenzie’s first as the Dean, and I was particularly touched to receive the Dean’s Medal, the highest recognition conferred by the School for public health leaders. Previous awardees included former Senator Barbara Mikulski; Dr. Harold Varmus (Former Director, National Institutes of Health); Carol Bellamy (Former Executive Director, UNICEF); and HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand.

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Dr. Wen Speaks at Hopkins

Note from the Commissioner: Protecting our Community’s Health

This week, I celebrated the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebration as the keynote speaker for the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office. By invitation of Special Agent in Charge Gordon Johnson, I applauded the efforts of the FBI to embrace diversity and inclusion in their work. I discussed the shared core values driving the work of those of us on the frontlines of public health and public safety: Compassion, fairness, and respect for the dignity of all those we protect. And I had the opportunity conduct a naloxone training for agents and analysts and discuss how addiction is a disease for which we must all approach with urgency.

All sectors must be engaged to protect our community’s health and well-being. I was glad to provide the opening keynote for the United Way of Central Maryland’s Emerging Leaders United Young Professionals Conference. These young professionals are coming from backgrounds as diverse as finance, law, architecture, and accounting, but each of them are engaged in social justice and community service. Researchers and academics can be just as engaged. Last Thursday, I presented to doctors, nurses, and public health researchers as part of the Women’s Health, Sex, and Gender Research Symposium at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. There, I discussed the importance of academic researchers building relationships with the local communities in which they work. Everyone can make a difference in the communities we live and serve.

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Note From The Commissioner: Treating Addiction in our Hospitals

Last week, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and I convened all 11 hospitals in Baltimore to announce our partnership to combat the opioid epidemic. Addiction is a disease. Treatment for it cannot be siloed and stigmatized.

Baltimore City hospitals have done exceptional work already. Nearly all of our City’s ERs offer medication-assisted treatment on demand and peer recovery specialists, something true of no other major city in America. Through my standing order for naloxone, more than 36,000 residents have been trained to use the antidote medication, and these residents have saved more than 1,900 lives. Law enforcement and health officials teamed up to start a program that allows residents arrested for low-level drug offenses the opportunity to choose treatment and case management instead of prosecution. In March, we announced the opening of our Stabilization Center, a first-of-its-kind 24/7 urgent care facility dedicated to issues of addiction and mental health.

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Note From The Commissioner: Fostering a Culture of Equity, Diversity, and Respect.

Last Saturday, I had the honor of participating in the 2018 Women of the World (WOW) Festival held at Notre Dame of Maryland University. I shared my personal and professional journey with some incredible trailblazing women, including Major General Linda Singh, the first African-American and first woman to become Adjutant General of Maryland.

I was especially honored to meet Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, whose personal story and heroic resilience has been so moving to witness. Ms. Burke spoke about the intersection of race, gender, and class in her experience as a survivor of sexual violence and as an advocate for women and girls.

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Note From The Commissioner: A Victory for Baltimore Youth and Science

On Wednesday night, Judge Catherine Blake of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in Baltimore City’s favor in our Teen Pregnancy Prevention suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Judge Blake granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the federal government’s decision-making was arbitrary and capricious.

This victory is a victory for the youth of Baltimore City, and for the use of science and evidence in education and health. It means that students in our City will continue to receive evidence-based, science-based teen pregnancy prevention education. It means that we will continue to be able to build capacity for teachers who are specifically trained to teach physiology, STD and HIV prevention, and holistic curricula to empower teens to make the best choices for themselves. It means that we will be able to continue our work in reducing teen birth rates, which fell 61% in Baltimore between 2000 and 2016—and that we will not roll back the gains that we have made.

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Note From The Commissioner: Reducing Falls, Protecting Our Seniors

It’s been a busy week at the Baltimore City Health Department! We announced the opening of a new school-based health center; joined the Mayor to sign two public health bills into law; participated in Light City and the March for Science; worked with Congressman Cummings and Senator Warren to support new legislation to establish a “Ryan White” for the opioid epidemic; hosted Law Day to support seniors and Precious Purple Sunday to support maternal and child health; issued a citywide warning for synthetic marijuana; and sued the Trump Administration. Please read on for these and other updates—and hear more on WYPR’s HealthWatch episode.

In this letter, I want to focus on the official launch of the citywide Falls Reduction Public Campaign and Strategy. Falls among older adults are a growing public health concern. Over three million older Americans visit the ER each year for falls; in Baltimore City, that’s nearly 5,000 seniors who fall. Each fall leads to an average hospitalization cost of $39,000. If we extrapolate, that means the cost of falls to Baltimore City – for medical costs alone – is $60 million.

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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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