Maryland Health Organizations Share Their Visions for Equitable Community Care – State of Reform
February will mark the end of a five-month process in which the Maryland Community Health Resource Commission (MCHRC) will distribute $13 million in funding initiatives based on health equity.
Forty organizations across the state have submitted applications to the MCHRC Pathways to Health Equity Call for Proposals in December, including local health departments, hospitals and non-profit organizations. To obtain the two-year funding, each applicant must demonstrate how they will work to reduce health disparities in areas with underserved communities. To ensure that their work will have an impact on the target communities, applicants have identified the specific postcodes they will serve, including Health business zones (HEZ), or postcodes with established health disparities.
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The grant program provides Maryland with the ability to create initiatives specifically tailored to a community’s unique health needs. These hyperlocal health campaigns, according to to Dr. Stephen Thomas, director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE), are essential to closing health disparities in the state.
One such strategy includes implicit bias training, according to Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland, a coalition under MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society. McIntosh helped write the organization’s application for more than $500,000 in grants.
According to McIntosh, the funds, which would be directed to MedChi’s Center for a Healthy Maryland, will work with Thomas and M-CHE to develop implicit bias training for health practitioners.
“When I say practitioners, I mean doctors, nurses, community health workers — anyone who’s in that area of health care,” McIntosh said. “[The training would help] eliminate biases, identify biases implicit in their own thinking, and how to approach and develop empathy and develop the skills needed to communicate with different communities, [such as] communities of color, transgender communities and any community they interact with.
The training would follow the foundations laid in the last legislative session when House Bill 28co-sponsored by Dels. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D – Anne Arundel) and Robby Lewis (D – Baltimore City), past. The bill, which took effect last October, requires the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities to “identify and approve certain implicit bias training programs.”
McIntosh says their program would follow a model of bias training already in place for researchers, which she says has been “really effective” so far.
MCHRC funding could also support health equity measures at local federally licensed health centers, a goal the Pride Center of Maryland (PCOM) outlined in its 1.05 grant application. million bucks. PCOM is a Baltimore City-based nonprofit that supports underserved and unserved sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations in Maryland.
With this funding, PCOM’s initiatives include outreach and education, strategies to improve coordination and communication among its healthcare provider organizations and a community advisory board, according to a statement from the acting executive director, Dr. Cleo Manago.
“With the participation of our partners, PCOM’s Pathways to Health Equity Alliance (PHEA) project focuses on expanding the capacity of a local FQHC and reaching out to local populations, underserved or unserved by sexual and gender minorities (SGM), and will improve the delivery of health care services through the training, involvement and contribution of partners,” Manago said in a statement.
The MCHRC is currently reviewing applications and will select the highest scoring applicants. At the beginning of February, the final applicants will have the opportunity to present their projects to the Commission, followed by the allocation of grants.