Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

I’ve had the opportunity to work in both the health and social service fields, so my interest was piqued when I learned about the 2nd Annual Symposium on the Social Determinants of Health, sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute. The agenda promised a diverse range of topics, from concrete policies and programs to research and theory on social capital, racism and poverty. And, the symposium did not disappoint.

Thirty speakers observed the importance of safe housing, education, a strong social network, access to healthy foods and quality health care to overall health outcomes. Throughout the conference, academics, practitioners, …read more

Poverty a Risk Factor for HIV?

The correlation between poverty and an increased risk for contracting HIV/AIDS has recently been substantiated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In a recent study, it was shown that ‘about one in every 50 heterosexual Americans living in poorer urban neighborhoods is infected with HIV’. This is about 5 times the infection rate of the general population.

This study is particularly relevant as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of Maryland (DHMH) estimated that the Baltimore City-Towson area ranked as the metropolitan area with the 4th highest rate of adults living with HIV infection in the U.S. in …read more

The Toll of Caregiving

Elderly Care (Photo credit: DonMarcoCaballero)

2011 was a tough year for my family. Within eight months, my maternal uncle was diagnosed with and succumbed to thyroid cancer. Meanwhile, he was my grandmother’s primary caretaker. As my uncle’s health deteriorated, my mom – a college professor – needed to step-in and manage both her brother’s and mother’s care. Observing this process – and helping my mom the best I could – was eye-opening. Since then, I’ve had numerous conversations and read countless articles related to the toll of caregiving.

According to the American Society on Aging:

Nearly one out of …read more

Where Does Your County Rank?

When making the case for health programs and policies, it is critical to show data that can support the point at hand. Oftentimes, online searches will point to national-level data that lump together urban and rural areas, and don’t adequately factor in the social determinants that can affect health, like housing and education.

When looking up health data for my home city of Baltimore, I was relieved to stumble upon the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps website. The statistics showed that Baltimore City has the lowest rankings in the state of Maryland, with an uninsured population doubling that of our …read more

Maryland Surfaces as a Healthcare Reform Leader

Countdown to Health Care Reform (Photo credit:

Key components of the healthcare law will surface in 2014, when the law will ensure that all individuals, families and small businesses can obtain coverage through state marketplaces. What healthcare might become in the next couple years, however, is already beginning to form and rise to the top.

Maryland’s health reform plans are quickly surfacing. State lawmakers submitted a plan last week for how they would apply federal healthcare reforms in Maryland in the new year, a plan that the Obama administration might be looking at to help shape health reform …read more