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April 14, 2003

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Chesapeake Bay Foundation Call for Public Health Indicators

Chesapeake Bay Health Indicators Project Connects Environmental and Health Policies

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) called upon policy makers, business leaders, and environmental researchers to develop new public health indicators that more closely connect changes in human health with changes in the environment during the opening of Restore America’s Estuaries Inaugural National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration in Baltimore, Md., on April 13. Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, dean of the School of Public Health, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker underscored the connection between the ecological health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the health of its inhabitants.

Their announcement highlights a recent Hopkins initiative, which was developed by the School's Center for a Livable Future. The Chesapeake Bay Health Indicators project is a regional pilot project aimed at developing tools for tracking the human health impacts of environmental degradation throughout the Bay’s 64,000-square-mile watershed.

“The connection between human health and the environment must be re-established. Through the Bay Health Indicators project, we are changing the framework for thinking about human health issues that are directly related to ecological factors,” said Dr. Sommer.

The project examines pollutants that could possibly serve as indicators of risks to both the environment and public health. Examples include chemical contamination of drinking water from total triahalomethane (a family of chemicals related to the amount of organic material in water and the chlorine to treat it), fecal contamination to beaches and urban waterways, and mercury and PCB contaminant pollution found in fish. These are examples of pollution problems that currently exist in the Bay watershed.

CBF’s State of the Bay, an annual report card assessing environmental quality of the Bay, was the impetus for developing a similar report card for population health. The Bay Health Indicators Project is the first step in establishing a system to monitor environmental risks to human health in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

“Environmental pollution is a precursor to compromising public health. CBF’s State of the Bay report has helped raise awareness and understanding of the fragility of the Bay’s health and the importance of addressing the pollution that is causing the Bay’s decline,” said Baker. “Without a doubt, there is a need to develop an equivalent public health tool for tracking the human health impacts of environmental degradation throughout the watershed.”

The Inaugural National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration is organized by Restore America's Estuaries. It will be held at Hyatt Regency Hotel in Baltimore, Md., April 13-16. The conference will highlight the collaborative actions among the environmental and conservation communities that have revitalized national coastal areas and restoration work that is still needed. More than 800 community and business leaders, government officials, and environmental researchers from across the nation are expected to participate. The conference will include an overview of the Human Health Indicators Project for the Chesapeake Bay, discussions on urban fishing contamination, cryptosporidium, and the state of the sewage system and infrastructure.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham at 410-955-6878 or
Contact for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation: Susan O'Brien at 410-268-8816