Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Join Us For A Community Meeting, Discussion of Health In Your Neighborhood

As part of our Neighborhood Health initiative, this evening Baltimore City Health Department will hold its first ever community meeting presenting the 2011 Neighborhood Health Profiles. There will be 13 others, one in each council district, which will follow over the course of the next several weeks.

This event marks a distinct change in direction for the health department. It’s a direction that is more neighborhood-focused. They say all politics is local. The same can be said just as loudly for health. Since the release of Healthy Baltimore 2015 in May of 2011, we have been focusing more on the social determinants of health – things such as transportation, housing, employment and education that together influence community health outcomes to a greater degree than direct medical services. The Profiles paint a picture of health that includes the dimensions of our built environment for each of our neighborhoods. While that in and of itself is more than most large cities have done, it is not enough.

All too often public health data sits in the ethosphere with missed opportunities zipping by. These community meetings signify our intent to create a different way of engaging with communities. It’s the beginning of a process by which we more fully collaborate with communities to identify common areas where we can take action.

The health issues facing many parts of our city, at first glance, can appear overwhelming. A closer inspection, as offered by the Profiles, makes clear that a process of prioritizing and directing broad-based coordinated efforts to targeted areas will be a winning strategy for the city as a whole.

Don’t be a spectator – we all need to have some skin in the game if we’re to realize a Baltimore where all residents realize their full health potential.

Check out our schedule of events and take the first step.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Safe Streets Baltimore: New Study Shows Program Is An Effective Public Health Approach To Reducing Gun Violence

Over the past ten years, Baltimore has made significant progress reducing violence. Homicide is at its lowest level since 1978, and juvenile homicides and shootings are down nearly 70% from 2001.

The Health Department’s Safe Streets Baltimore initiative is an important component of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s strategy to reduce homicide and shooting rates. Launched in 2007, Safe Streets is an evidence-based, public health initiative that intervenes in crises, mediates disputes between individuals, and intercedes on group disputes to prevent violent events.

Safe Streets currently operates in Cherry Hill and McElderry Park, but today, I joined Mayor Rawlings-Blake in announcing the expansion of this vital program. Safe Streets Baltimore will be expanding to additional communities as a result of a $2.2 million dollar award from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  The funding will also be used to expand the initiative to two additional communities that are disproportionately impacted by violence. Interested community groups can review the RFP at http://baltimorehealth.org/rfp.html.

Our expansion of Safe Streets is supported by the release of a new study today by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health demonstrating the program’s effectiveness. As noted in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Public Health blog, this study demonstrates clearly that a public health intervention can be a successful means for reducing youth violence. Violence is a learned behavior, and as a learned behavior, it can be prevented using the same methods we use to stop the spread of disease.

Some of the key findings of this study include:
         In all four neighborhoods (McElderry Park, Ellwood Park, Madison-Eastend, and Cherry Hill) the program was associated with a statistically significant decline in either homicides or nonfatal shootings, or both.
         Overall, researchers estimated the program prevented at least 5 homicide incidents and 35 nonfatal shooting incidents.
         In Cherry Hill, the program was associated with a 56 percent decline in homicides and a 34 percent decline in nonfatal shootings.
         The program was associated with a 34 percent drop in nonfatal shootings in Elwood Park.
         Researchers estimated that Safe Streets Baltimore was responsible for a 26 percent reduction in homicides in McElderry Park over the nearly three and a half years the program was in place. This site did not experience a homicide during the first 23 months of program implementation.

I would like to thank those who have invested in Safe Streets and urge local foundations and the business and faith communities to continue to step up and invest in this initiative – which has been proven to save lives.

We can be a safe city, but we must continue to support those programs which are contributing to our success. While the Health Department has been awarded funds for expansion of Safe Streets, additional funding is needed to sustain the existing two sites past this fiscal year.  The Health Department will use these positive evaluation results to seek additional funding for Cherry Hill and McElderry Park. I join the Mayor in urging local faith, non-profit, and businesses to lend their support to this vital initiative.

To view the full report on the effectiveness of our Safe Streets program, or for more information or to find out how to apply to become a Safe Streets site, please visit the Health Department’s Website, www.baltimorehealth.org/safestreets.

Take Care, B’more!