Businesses informed on public health policy issues County-sponsored forum hopes to strengthen link between firms, community

April 03, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

In what it hopes to establish as an annual event, the Baltimore County Health Department held a forum yesterday to discuss public health issues with members of the business community.

The program at the Towson Sheraton, "Good Public Health Is Good Business," was planned to coincide with National Public Health Week.

The program included speeches by health professionals aimed at providing public health policy information for businesses.

Dozens of representatives from local agencies and companies attended the meeting. Dr. Michelle A. Leverett, Baltimore County health officer, said her department wants to create a partnership with the private sector to improve the health of county residents.

"Public health is more than just what the health department does," Dr. Leverett said.

"Businesses have the power to affect the health of our communities."

Dr. Leverett offered data showing that an estimated 70 percent of drug abusers are employed -- and the resulting loss in productivity and other problems costs businesses millions of dollars annually.

Even a report titled "Violence: A 20th Century Epidemic" had its workplace application.

Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, a deputy state health secretary for public health services, who showed graphic slides illustrating the damage a bullet can do to a body, noted that violence is occurring more frequently on the job.

He correlated a dramatic increase in the use of firearms with the increase in drug trafficking.

"This epidemic is almost entirely due to firearms," Dr. Benjamin said.

Forum participants also received information on health insurance options, preventive health care and employee assistance programs.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III praised Dr. Leverett for initiatives to extend health care concerns beyond the boundaries of the usual health agencies.

"I think it's extremely important to realize that public health is not just for the poor," Mr. Ruppersberger said.

Pub Date: 4/03/96

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