City to promote healthy living with week of events

Ravens' Ray Rice to lead Inner Harbor workout

September 26, 2010|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

At the Inner Harbor this week you might run into workers shaking their hips in a zumba dance class, bending over in a yoga pose or exercising with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

Outside Lexington Market, mobile units will screen people for heart disease and other ailments. And the central Enoch Pratt Free Library will offer a selection of healthy food samples.

Notice the theme?

Today marks the start of Healthy City Days — a week of free events designed to get Baltimore residents to exercise more, eat better and take control of their health.

Officials acknowledge that the events won't solve all the health problems in a city with high rates of heart disease, infant mortality and colon cancer — just to name a few.

But they hope to give residents the tools to begin living healthier lives. The week's events highlight preventive care, which federal health care reform emphasizes as a way to reduce long-term medical costs.

"It's the first step to raising awareness and to give people incentives to look at their own situations and see how they can incorporate healthy living on a daily basis," said Baltimore Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot.

Healthy City Days was created after new statistics came out showing that residents continue to face many health disparities.

The death rate from cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer in the city, is 4 percent higher than in the rest of the state. African-American babies die at twice the rate of white babies. And the mortality rate from colon cancer is 24 per 100,000 for African-Americans, compared with 16 per 100,000 for whites.

Factors such as education levels, income and access to resources can help determine whether residents are healthy, Barbot said, adding, "I think that historically Baltimore has had difficulty in these areas."

And a week of events won't eliminate another key factor that has been years in the making: lack of insurance. There are about 125,000 uninsured people in the city.

But Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said some people may not know that they qualify for government health programs. Educational seminars will provide that information.

"We are going to be giving people information so that if you don't have health insurance you can find out what programs you are eligible for," she said. "If you don't have health insurance and aren't taking care of yourself you can get screenings."

Rawlings-Blake said she doesn't have an exercise routine, but uses a home gym to work out and tries to do exercises at her desk. She also does light workouts featured on FitTV, a cable channel.

"I wouldn't say I have a routine, but what I like to do is find ways in my daily activity to get moving," Rawlings-Blake said.

It is an example she hopes other Baltimoreans will follow.

The mayor will kick off Healthy City Days Monday at 12:30 p.m. with a walk from City Hall to the Harborplace Amphitheater, picking up people from downtown businesses along the way.

The screenings, health fairs and other events are being held at venues accessible to residents in neighborhoods both rich and poor. For instance, the Pratt Library is holding screenings at several branches.

Pratt CEO Carla Hayden said libraries are community hubs and ideal places to have the events. Health information is the most-searched information in libraries, she added.

She also joked that residents will have to exercise to sample the healthy food at the central Pratt. "We put it on the second floor so people can walk up the stairs."

There will be blood pressure screenings at Northern Community Action Center on York Road on Wednesday, a health fair and free screenings at City Hall on Friday, and screenings at University Park Plaza at Greene and West Redwood streets on Wednesday.

Screenings are a big part of Healthy City Days, because officials say the key to good health is knowing whether you have any illnesses.

Dr. Yvette Rooks, vice chair of family medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the screenings can help identify health problems in people who may not have insurance or may have inadequate coverage. They also might reach people who have put off going to a doctor because they fear something is wrong.

"If we can get people just to let them know where they are and then direct them to a primary care physician, then other things can happen," said Rooks, who is helping to organize the screenings. "It will help people to know where to begin to start that path to good health care."

Highlights of Healthy City Days

Monday, 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Walk with the mayor from City Hall to the Harborplace Amphitheater.

Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Work out with Ravens' Ray Rice at the Inner Harbor

Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Free cholesterol, vascular, prostate and other screenings at University Park Plaza, Greene and West Redwood streets

Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Mobile health vans offer screenings and consultation outside Lexington Market

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