After 18 months of preplanning, the Baltimore City Health Department announced Healthy Baltimore 2020, a dynamic 5-year approach dedicated to improving upon a wide number of health-related issues currently impacting the city. Using input from community leaders, nonprofit organizations, and other local health officials, Healthy Baltimore 2020 hopes to reduce disease rates and violence while also upgrading many of its existing public health programs.
“Growing a healthier Baltimore is foundational to our sustained success as a city,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake in an official press release on August 30th.
Healthy Baltimore 2020, which Mayor Rawlings-Blake hailed as “an ambitious, dynamic blueprint for health in the city”, plans to improve local lives on four fronts: addressing behavioral health issues, stopping violence, preventing the spread of chronic disease, and offering additional life courses as well as other vital “core services” designed to help children and the elderly.
City officials plan to address behavioral health concerns with a wide variety of practical solutions. Aside from a massive initiative to identify and promote trauma awareness in Baltimore so residents can recognize when they may need help, an all-hours Stabilization Center is also in the works as well.
According to a 2013 document from the Baltimore Behavioral Health System, this Stabilization Center will offer a 10-hour stay for up to 35 intoxicated patients that includes bedding, clothing, and the appropriate type of medical attention. Follow-up treatment is also planned to be offered for up to 30 days after the initial visit. Through this Stabilization Center, the Baltimore City Health Department hopes to ease the current burden on emergency rooms, jails, and psychiatric wards.
Additionally, Healthy Baltimore 2020 aims to prevent violence by enhancing current public safety protocols and measures such as the Safe Streets program, which uses “violence interrupters” – ex-convicts and former gang members from the local community – to deescalate conflicts before they grow out-of-control. Under Healthy Baltimore 2020, the violence interrupter model would expand to hospital settings as well. Other intervention methods, such as providing eyeglasses for schoolchildren, aim to keep the population alert and able to stay out of harm’s way.
To combat the spread of chronic diseases, the Baltimore City Health Department will be in charge of a huge public health awareness undertaking that seeks to encourage physical activity and nutritional awareness. Public health service messages and other information campaigns will be employed, and a new telemedicine model for schools will allow doctors to treat children without coming into close contact with the disease themselves.
Finally, Healthy Baltimore 2020 promotes a bevy of programs aimed at protecting the city’s most vulnerable populations: children and the elderly. To achieve this, a new health facility will provide “cutting-edge clinical services” according to the official webpage (www.hb2020.com). New strategies for keeping seniors healthy will be implemented by the city as well.
According to Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, Healthy Baltimore 2020 is more than simply promoting health and awareness.
“We aim to cut health disparities in half over the next decade,” the Health Commissioner promised.
This is a reference to the widening health gap between neighboring communities, which, despite a close proximity, can reduce the average life expectancy by as much as 20 years due to impoverished living conditions. Baltimore also has a higher mortality rate than the rest of Maryland by 30 percent. With these programs in place, however, Dr. Leana Wen – along with many others – hopes to heavily reduce these statistics by the year 2020.
“While our goal may seem ambitious”, the Health Commissioner continued, “This aspiration is in fact grounded in the work that Baltimore City Health Department tackles each day, from comprehensive wellness services for our most vulnerable children to ensuring that seniors are able to age with dignity and respect.”