In the late spring of 2011, the city leaders of Baltimore unveiled ten ambitious goals to spring the troubled city into public health stardom:
- Promote Access to Quality Health Care for All
- Be Tobacco Free
- Redesign Communities to Prevent Obesity
- Promote Heart Health
- Stop the Spread of HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections
- Recognize and Treat Mental Health Needs
- Reduce Drug Use and Alcohol Abuse
- Encourage Early Detection of Cancer
- Promote Healthy Children and Adolescents
- Create Health Promoting Neighborhoods
Dr. Oxiris Barbot, Baltimore’s health commissioner, hoped these goals would impact every community from Canton to Mount Washington; although many of these areas are reaping the benefits, some still find themselves behind the learning curve. Baltimore is definitely getting healthier, but it still has a considerable way to go. Now we find ourselves in 2015, and the year is quickly coming to an end; Dr. Barbot has left for New York, and her presence will surely be missed. Just how much did she accomplish in her tenure as Baltimore’s health commissioner?
For starters, the health department partnered with the Family League of Baltimore and B’more for Healthy Babies to create the “Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative.” This initiative’s goal is to reduce teen-birth rates in Baltimore. The city owned one of the highest rates in the country at 64 per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 in 2009, whereas the national rate was approximately 39. The program was set on reducing rates by 20% by 2015, however they reduced rates by 30% by 2013! These astonishing numbers were possible by providing access to exceptional evidence-based education, clinical services, and opportunities to contribute to their communities as civil leaders.
Additionally, a virtual supermarket program, “Baltimarket,” has been collaborating with Baltimore’s Department of Planning and Housing to help improve the accessibility of healthy foods in many of Baltimore’s food deserts. Their goal is to provide supermarket priced goods to people in neighborhoods lacking sufficient grocery stores. Baltimore residents can order groceries online and pick them up without additional fees at a variety of locations peppered throughout the city. People can order at senior housing facilities, or even a local library, and have their groceries delivered to a mutual location for easy pick-up.
On top of that, the Baltimore City Housing Department led the city’s “Vacants to Values” program throughout various neighborhoods. The program focuses on demolishing vacant properties and redeveloping them for new families. They focus on spurring growth and reinvestment in Baltimore in hopes of growing the city by 10,000 families.
A variety of statistics point to the success of the aforementioned programs: HIV is down 25%, cardiovascular related deaths are down 10%, and gonorrhea is down 40%. Despite these stunning numbers, life expectancy rates still stagger by 20 years in various communities, reaffirming that there is work still to be done.
Info about the author of this article: Hani Michael Annabi is part of the Global MBA class of 2017 and a member of the Johns Hopkins Healthcare Business Association. He has experience in clinical healthcare and has published several medical research papers for the Science Open Journal and the Dove Medical Press.