GBMC, Dept. of Aging to work on genetics project

September 03, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

When Greater Baltimore Medical Center officials heard Baltimore County wanted to tell senior citizens about the links between health and family histories, they jumped at the chance to help -- and to publicize GBMC's new genetics research center.

Now, in the latest in a series of public-private partnerships, the County Council is being asked to approve GBMC's contribution of $30,000 to print 250,000 informational file folders for the county Department of Aging.

The county's Genetic Information Family Tree Program will distribute the folders around Thanksgiving to seniors and their families, allowing those interested to track their family and medical histories.

Officials at GBMC view the partnership, which was discussed at a council work session Tuesday,as a way to help build an image for the Harvey Genetics Center, which opened a year ago.

"I was racking my brains for a way to increase community knowledge of this program," Vivian Stearns, the hospital's spokeswoman, said of the GBMC center. "It's great fun for people to chart their family tree -- and at the same time to become aware of diseases in their family tree."

Partnerships such as one with GBMC call for private institutions and businesses to provide cash for public information campaigns the county can't afford, in exchange for some indirect advertising among the county's growing ranks of seniors.

But such arrangements haven't been without controversy. A similar partnership involving Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., which donated money for similar folders that seniors could use to store financial papers, drew criticism in June. Some worried that the county seemed to be endorsing a particular company.

In that case, although there was no direct sales effort, Met Life was named on the folders, and sales agents were on hand at luncheons in Howard County in case anyone wanted to talk business.

Asked during the council meeting about that controversy, Charles L. Fisher Jr., director of the county's Department of Aging, defended the deal.

"I don't consider the [Met Life] file a controversial thing. It was purely our product. We were careful how we did it," he said.

Earlier this week, Arnold Eppel, deputy director, said the county has copyrighted the GBMC folders and has final say over wording to prevent exploitation of seniors.

"I dotted all my I's and crossed my T's with Met Life and I'm doing the same thing here," Eppel said, noting that Met Life will pay the $2,500 cost of next month's breakfast.

The GBMC deal is one of several the department is hoping to use to give seniors information on everything from investments to the pitfalls of the funeral business.

Eppel conceived the idea for a "baby boomers' breakfast" for businesses interested in marketing to the county's aging population.

Pub Date: 9/03/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.