Category Archives: Maryland (MD) SA
Howard County has been the healthiest in Maryland since the Country Health Rankings launched in 2010. NewPublicHealth recently spoke with the county’s executive, Ken Ulman, about how the Rankings have helped drive further progress in improving the health of Howard County. Health initiatives introduced by Howard County have included a program that certifies schools as “Healthy Schools,” if they meet criteria in several areas including nutrition and physical activity, and a smoking ban in all county parks.
NewPublicHealth: Howard County has been consistently been ranked the healthiest county in Maryland. What key factors do you credit for that?
Ken Ulman: We start with some advantages. We have the blessings of a highly educated population that cares deeply about their community and have good jobs, and many, though not all, have [adequate financial] resources and access to care. We also have the advantage of having a nonprofit, the Horizon Foundation, based in Howard County that is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of people living and working in our county.
So it’s a combination of policy initiatives coupled with a public that really wants to make progress in these areas.
NPH: Have the County Health Rankings helped drive any of your public health and prevention initiatives?
>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.
A group of impassioned attendees of the National Association of County and City Health Officials Annual Meeting attended a screening of The Interrupters, a documentary about the CeaseFire violence prevention program that began in Chicago and is now a prominent, effective program in other U.S. and international cities. CeaseFire takes a unique public health approach to stopping gun violence in communities. Findings from a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health show that shootings and killings in even America’s most violent communities can be reduced using the CeaseFire model—a model that employs disease control and behavior change strategies to reduce violence. CeaseFire employs ex-offenders who have unique credibility with community members and effectiveness in getting people to rethink the impulse to resolve disputes using guns.
Safe Streets Baltimore was launched by the Baltimore City Health Department in 2007 as a CeaseFire replication site. Speakers at last night’s screening included Ricardo “Cobe” Williams of CeaseFire Chicago and Oxiris Barbot, MD, the health director of the city of Baltimore in Maryland.
A health officer from Cambridge, Mass., asked the speakers about one thing they’d like to see changed in their communities. Dr. Barbot said: “We need a health in all policies approach with better housing, education [and other social changes] to improve the environment.” NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Dr. Barbot about the impact the program has made in the city.
NewPublicHealth: How does the Safe Streets program build on the CeaseFire model?
Dr. Barbot: We replicated what was done in Chicago, but our implementation differs in that the Baltimore health department houses the Safe Streets program–our name for the CeaseFire model—and we provide technical assistance for that community-based organization to actually carry out the model. We think that that works for us because it helps to create community ownership of the model, and it also allows us to focus on administering the program and making sure that the fidelity of the model is adhered to. We oversee the program and community groups implement it.
We’ve got staff on board that work intensively with the community-based organizations to make sure that they are tracking the number of mediations that occur, that they are tracking the number of face to face meetings, and if those numbers aren’t at a particular level, we do retraining so that the interrupters that are working in that particular neighborhood feel more comfortable in what they’re doing. Similar to any other chronic disease intervention model, the folks who are actually doing the work need to have ongoing professional development to make sure that their tools are as up to date as possible.
NPH: What has your success been since the program began?