Maryland Center for Health Equity leadership team

Maryland Center for Health Equity leadership team (l to r): Dr. Stephen Thomas, Dr. Sandra Quinn, Dr. Mary Garza (now at Fresno State), Dr. Craig Fryer and Dr. James Butler III

November 7, 2018

The Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) has been recognized by the American Public Health Association (APHA) with its 2018 Health Equity Award for its work improving the health of Maryland residents.

Given by APHA’s Public Health Education and Health Promotion (PHEHP) Section, the award honors one individual or organization each year that has worked to eliminate health disparities and improve health equity through advances in health education or communication. Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, professor of Health Services Administration and M-CHE director, will accept the award on behalf of the center at the APHA annual meeting in San Diego, California during the PHEHP Awards Luncheon taking place on Tuesday, November 13.

Since its founding in 2010, M-CHE has established a community-based research infrastructure working in partnership with local residents, policy decision makers, for profit and non-profit institutions throughout Prince George’s County and across the state of Maryland. The center’s vision is building bridges, building trust and building healthy communities all designed to reduce the burden of premature illness and preventable death among populations suffering from health disparities.  According to Dr. Thomas, “We take pride in working closely with communities disproportionately affected by chronic disease and health inequities associated with discrimination. We are addressing the social determinants of health and connecting communities with technology designed to improve access to evidence-based health information and health care services they can afford.” 

The M-CHE was nominated for the Health Equity Award by the UMD School of Public Health’s Dean Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH and selected through a competitive process.

“The Maryland Center for Health Equity’s work has allowed for thousands of individuals to receive health-related support and care, while promoting engagement and community-based learning opportunities for our students, staff, faculty and community partners,” Dr. Lushniak noted in his nomination.

M-CHE’s programs dedicated to reducing health disparities and improving health include:

  • Health Advocates In-Reach & Research (HAIR): M-CHE has developed a network of barbershops and beauty salons serving African-American and Latino communities in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City and the Metro-DC region that serve to raise awareness about health disparities and the importance of colon cancer screenings. With support from the Cigna Foundation’s World of Difference grant award, researchers and barbers partner to transform barbershops and salons into health information portals delivering lifesaving health education and medical screenings to clients on site and conducting research to better understand willingness of African Americans to participate in clinical trials that collect DNA and other bio-specimens.
  • The Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival (MOM): In partnership with Catholic Charites and the Maryland State Dental Association, the M-CHE hosts the largest emergency dental clinic in the state. The Xfinity center is transformed from an arena of basketball competition to an arena of health care cooperation with 125 dental chairs delivering dental care from cleanings to oral surgery along with wrap-around medical and public health services. Over the two-day event, people seeking relief from suffering are served by 700 plus volunteers. The MOM event reaches thousands of underserved adults in the region. In 2014 and 2017, the event served over 2,000 patients delivering more than $2.1M in dental care services combined over the two events. The next MOM is scheduled for September 2019.
  • Building Trust between Minorities and Researchers (BT): The Building Trust initiative is one of the scientific products of the NIH National Bioethics Research Infrastructure grant awarded to Dr. Sandra Quinn, Professor Family Science and Senior Associate Director of M-CHE.  BT is designed to increase the participation of racial and ethinc minorities in public health research and biomedical clinical trials by helping people become informed decision makers and helping researchers become more self-reflective as a means to strengthen the relationships between researchers and community members.
  • School-Based Initiatives: M-CHE school-based initiatives include both the College Park Academy and the Al-Huda (Muslim) school in College Park, Md. Each institution serves a unique population and M-CHE has partnered with each to provide culturally appropriate health education and health promotion programs for the children and families that these schools serve.
  • The Susan D. Mona Center for Health and Wellness: The Mona Center is an integrative health and wellness center that provides health and social services to the Temple Hills, Maryland community. Through a partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and Doctors Community Hospital, the Mona Center is working to address many of the social factors that impact health.  What was once a boarded up eye-sore of a building in a neighborhood that had seen better times is now a renovated facility that includes 1,2000 sq ft of space on two floors and reimagination of an overflow parking lot has now been transformed into a demonstration farm/learning garden. M-CHE has mobilized faculty from across the school of public health and other units on campus with the goal of making the Mona Center a health promotion field station where students can translate what they learn on campus into community-based solutions for improving health in the community.  Dr. Thomas teaches a human centered design course totally focused on shaping service delivery at the Mona Center. To date approximately 100 students have completed the course HLSA484 Redesigning Health Care to Meet Community Need.  This course, co-developed with Drs. Dylan Roby and Lusia Franzani, Department of Health Services Administration was selected through a competitive process by the UMD Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship as one of their Fearless Idea Classes open the undergraduates across all majors.  
  • Maryland Community Research Advisory Board (MD-CRAB): Community members and stakeholders sit on the MD-CRAB to advise and provide support for M-CHE’s efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities by building trust between minority communities and health science researchers. MD-CRAB helps researchers strengthen their studies by tailoring research questions, recruitment materials and data collection procedures to the communities they study.
  • Shaping Public Policy:  The M-CHE has provided the public health science foundation for two laws important for advancing health equity in Maryland.  The Maryland Health Improvement and Disparities Reduction Act of 2012, created the highly successful Health Enterprise Zones.  The University of Maryland School of Public Health, Center for Health Equity - Workgroup on Health in All Policies Act of 2017  created the forum where a representatives from each state agency gather a one table to better understand how their respective policies impact the health and wellbeing of residents across the state.
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More about the Maryland Center for Health Equity