Lt. Governor's Office News Release
BALTIMORE, Md. (June 23, 2011) – Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown announced that he is leading a new effort to address health disparities in Maryland. As co-chair of the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council (HQCC), Lt. Governor Brown will oversee a new health disparities workgroup within the HQCC. The workgroup, which will be led by Dr. E. Albert Reece, Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, will design strategies and initiatives to address disparities inside the health care system.
“Addressing health disparities among Maryland’s racial and ethnic communities is a moral imperative,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “We have new tools for early diabetes detection and kidney care, and yet in Maryland about twice as many African Americans suffer from diabetes compared to whites. We have state-of-the-art neo-natal intensive care units, but African American babies are three times more likely to die before the age of 1 than white babies. For where we are and how far we have come as a nation and a state, it is unacceptable that these inequities persist. All Marylanders deserve the best possible care and the opportunity to improve their quality of life, which is why Governor O’Malley and I are putting a renewed focus on addressing disparities in Maryland.”
“There are reasonably achievable programs and policies that will reduce health disparities, enhance health care delivery, and improve the health and well-being of all Maryland’s citizens,” Dr. Reece said. “The workgroup will aim to identify the areas where such programs, policies, and legislation can be implemented and have the broadest, most immediate, and sustained impact. Maryland is fortunate to have leadership that is committed to the health of all citizens, and it is the responsibility of all health care professionals in our state to help the Governor and Lt. Governor realize their vision for a healthier Maryland.”
The Lt. Governor was joined by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore City Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Deputy Secretary Frances B. Phillips for the announcement at Blade Master Barbershop on Reisterstown Road, a local business that participates in Baltimore’s innovative barbershop men’s health outreach program. As part of the health disparities effort, Lt. Governor Brown will be working with local communities to identify innovative approaches and effective efforts for addressing disparities that could be expanded or replicated in other areas of the state.
Baltimore’s men’s health outreach program uses the established “barbershop engagement” approach. The program provides free screenings for hypertension, diabetes and obesity, as well as nutritional education and information on accessing primary care, while men are waiting for services at barbershops.
“Barbershops are uniquely positioned for health outreach to African American communities, especially men, who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease and typically are less engaged in health care than women,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “By ensuring at-risk men are referred to care for effective treatment, we are reducing the risk that they will suffer a costly and potentially deadly stroke or heart attack.”
“Delivering important public health interventions in barbershops is an example of how businesses can facilitate healthier living," said Dr. Barbot. "As outlined in Healthy Baltimore 2015, we all play a role making healthy options default options for all residents.”
“A healthy Maryland means leaving no community behind,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and former Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City. “I look forward to sustained progress in addressing health disparities.”
Addressing health disparities is an important factor for reining in rising health care costs, a priority of national and state health care reform efforts. A 2006 report found that blacks in Maryland are nearly twice as likely be hospitalized for such treatable conditions as asthma, hypertension and heart failure, costing Medicare an additional $26 million. Nationally, a 2009 report estimated that between 2003 and 2006, nearly $230 billion could have been saved in direct medical care costs if racial and ethnic health disparities did not exist.
“If we want to reach health equity and stem the tide of rising health care costs we must seize the moment and use the tools provided by the Affordable Care Act to expand access, eliminate disparities and make Maryland the healthiest state in the nation,” added Lt. Governor Brown.
Maryland’s Health Quality and Cost Council’s new health disparities workgroup will consider a wide range of policies to reduce disparities within the health care system, including possible financial and performance-based incentives such as encouraging doctors to practice in underserved communities or rewarding reductions in preventable hospitalizations among racial and ethnic communities. At the end of the year, the Lt. Governor will take the lead in combining the workgroup’s efforts with the expansion of innovative community programs and additional State-level policy changes to form a blueprint for how Maryland can address and reduce disparities throughout the State.
As Co-Chair of Maryland’s Health Quality and Cost Council and the Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council, Lt. Governor Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s efforts to reduce costs, expand access, and improve the quality of care for all Marylanders. Under the leadership of Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown, Maryland has implemented reforms that have expanded health coverage to over 260,000 Marylanders and put the State in position to maximize the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).