For the first time, Johns Hopkins Hospital is asking the surrounding East Baltimore community to tell hospital medical experts what it wants and needs to combat its health problems.
And, based on preliminary discussions with the advisory board of the new initiative, announced today, the hospital soon will be tackling many of the most difficult health problems the community faces.
These include asthma -- which sends many children to the hospital's emergency room and keeps them out of school -- lung and breast cancer, infant mortality and stemming the spread of HIV disease, several members of the board said.
"People in our neighborhood know what their most important health concerns are, and we need to listen and learn from them," said Dr. Robert M. Heyssel, president and chief executive officer of the Johns Hopkins Health System and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
He said the new initiative aims to demonstrate that measurable changes can be made in community health in a broad population in "cost-effective ways."
The initiative will emphasize health education, disease prevention and early intervention in serious health problems, "which are a lot less expensive than treatment later in the course of disease," he said.
In the past, Hopkins has received grants and then gone to the community and sought its help to implement programs the hospital thought were best for the community.
Now, Hopkins is using $150,000 of its own money to launch the initiative, which will operate out of a new Office of Community Health in the 550 Building, across the street from the hospital's North Broadway entrance.
Setting up low-cost mammography -- $45 or less -- will be one of the priorities, said Terisa James, the OCH's executive director.
Dr. Frank A. Oski, chairman of the hospital's department of pediatrics, will serve as director of the OCH.
Lee Tawney, an assistant to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, said, "We're here today renewing and revitalizing a 100-year-old dream . . . a continuing partnership to make this institution work for this community."
Johns Hopkins, wealthy Baltimore merchant and banker, founded the hospital, which opened in 1889, and the university, which opened four years later.
City Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, who represents the area, said, "We're not happy about our health in this community. I'm on board with this to see that the hospital hears the commitment of Johns Hopkins himself, who said the hospital should take care of the health needs of the community."
Both Tawney and Stokes are on the 12-member advisory board made up of representatives from East Baltimore Community groups, the mayor's office and the city health department, as well as from Johns Hopkins Hospital, the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health.
The board has been asked to determine the community's three or four most pressing health problems.
The OCH will then serve as a clearinghouse for information about all existing health-care programs in East Baltimore, help groups seek financial support for needed projects and serve as an information and referral source for groups and individuals.