Online Program

Unrest in Baltimore: Emergency Public Health Services

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Leana Wen, M.D., M.Sc., Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, MD
Katherine Warren, B.A., Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, MD
Joneigh Khaldun, M.D., Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, MD
Olivia Farrow, J.D., Youth Wellness & Community Health, Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, MD
Dawn O'Neill, M.P.H., Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, MD
On April 27, 2015, civil unrest broke out in Baltimore City following the death of a 25-year-old African American man, Freddie Gray. As riots and subsequent demonstrations occurred throughout the city, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called upon the Baltimore City Health Department to coordinate the immediate response along with the Fire and Police Departments. Beyond the critical need for public safety, Baltimoreans needed access to hospitals, prescriptions, food, and other essentials. Daily life had to continue even as neighborhood CVS stores burned. Through working with community partners on the ground, we were able to establish a hospital operations list; coordinate a call-in line to facilitate the delivery of medications to vulnerable and elderly residents; and establish a 24/7 mental health and trauma recovery plan for the city. In the months since this spring, we have worked to address both the underlying causes and resultant effects of the unrest. The lens of public health can provide both the understanding of entrenched disparities and distrust as well as the agility to provide relevant resources to city residents at times when they are most in need. Baltimore is far from unique in the challenges it is facing. The public health lessons the Health Department has drawn over the past months can be of real importance to other cities facing similar instability at the intersection of inequitable access, discriminatory policing, and public health responses.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe the public health emergency response to the recent Baltimore unrest following the death of Freddie Gray. Identify best practices in public health emergency response and rebuilding after civil unrest. Identify underlying health disparities and historical relationships that make violence and civil unrest a public health issue.

Keyword(s): Emergency Preparedness, Health Disparities/Inequities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Leana Wen is the Baltimore City Health Commissioner. She is an emergency physician, public health leader, and patient and community advocate. She serves in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration to lead the oldest health department in the United States, with over 1,000 employees working to reduce disparities and improve the health of Baltimore. Dr. Wen led the public health emergency response during the recent Baltimore civil unrest.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.