Department of Environmental Health Sciences
Mission Statement for Baltimore
The Department of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) is engaged in numerous activities focused on promoting public health in Baltimore communities including: health promotion and screening programs, educational activities, and direct environmental health research in Baltimore communities. EHS centers, faculty, staff and students partner with a variety of community-based organizations, and local and state government agencies in Baltimore to improve the local environment and the health of the city residents. EHS provides educational opportunities and materials on a variety of topics, such as smoking and asthma prevention strategies, promotion of healthy homes, promotion of access to and consumption of healthy foods, and promotion of the health of our local waterways. Cultivating bi-directional communications between local residents and community leaders and EHS staff is paramount to creating a healthy environment for all residents of the city of Baltimore.
“Health Promotion: Day at Northeast Market”
Fifteen years ago, the Department’s community engagement coordinators, Barbara Bates-Hopkins and Pat Tracey helped to establish “The Day at the Market,” which is held at least two days a month at the Northeast Market. This program provides walk-up information on nutrition and a host of health concerns ranging from cancer, heart disease, asthma and diabetes. “The Day at the Market” has been active since that time, and most recently has provided blood pressure screening and other services to help people prevent and manage chronic illness.
Healthy Food Promotion
The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, based in the Environmental Health Sciences Department, is working on several fronts to improve Baltimore’s food environment. The Center operates a unique educational project at the City’s Cylburn Arboretum that introduces Baltimore youth to food system learning with a range of activities involving aquaponics and other forms of agriculture. Since opening in 2013, the facility has hosted more than 1,400 Baltimore-area students.
The Center also supports Baltimore-area teachers with no-cost educational resources, grants for school gardens, field trips, and other forms of hands-on enrichment for the city’s budding food system scholars. The Center’s Baltimore Food and Faith Project Summer Camp Curriculum––an interfaith curriculum teaching children about food and gardening––has supported over 40 community gardens in the Baltimore area. These gardens frequently generate enough for gardeners to donate produce to emergency food sources, enabling gardeners to take it home or use it in cooking classes with families.
The Davis Environmental Microbiology Laboratory works on the effect of air quality on the adult asthmatic response (INHALE) study in partnership with inner-city Baltimore adults who have asthma. Our work evaluates whether colonization or environmental exposure to bacteria, specifically certain strains of Staphylococcus aureus, contribute to asthma exacerbations through an allergic mechanism.
The lab is also involved in the Childhood Asthma study of inner-city Baltimore children with asthma. This population suffers disproportionately from asthma. The study builds on the questions asked in the INHALE study, but also evaluates the microbial contributions from pet animals and pests (primarily mice and cockroaches) in the home to microbial communities on children. We further evaluate how children’s changing microbial communities contribute to or protect them from asthma exacerbation.
Impact of Environment Conditions of Baltimore Schools on Student Health and Performance
In the 2015-2016 academic year, Baltimore City Public Schools will begin a major renovation project, the 21st Century School Buildings Plan, which includes 11 school renovations during the 2015-2016 academic year. For each of the 11 targeted schools, our team will complete a comprehensive assessment of light, sound, and air quality before and after renovations, and conduct assessments on non-renovated control schools. We will evaluate whether the renovations result in changes in environmental conditions and whether any changes in environmental conditions result in changes to key performance and health outcomes.
Dr. Sheila Fitzgerald collaborates with Marian House, a non-profit transitional housing program serving homeless and/or previously incarcerated women in Baltimore City. Marian House provides its residents with a structured living environment, counseling, education, life skills training, employment readiness, job placement, and preparation for community reintegration. Dr. Fitzgerald and her students in the Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing Program provide services such as tutoring, and they work with the executive director to evaluate and document the program’s success. This teamwork is helping to strengthen the resources that are available to the women of Marian House.
EHS Baltimore Project: Expanded Day at the Market
The Department of Environmental Health Sciences will work toward expanding our hours for “Day at the Market” and the health information and screening services we offer at the Northeast Market. Moreover, we will begin assisting community residents with enrollment in health insurance programs through the Affordable Care Act. The Department will also form partnerships to improve health information available for consumers, work to engage residents in healthy eating, and work with other health services offered at farmer’s markets. These efforts began on October 1, 2015 and more information will be available at the Environmental Health Sciences Department website.