Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Moving Upstream in the Fight Against Disease While Improving the Health of Our Community’s Children

As we continue to build our system of care it is important for us to begin to focus on prevention. The  GBMC system has taken an important step to reduce the rate of childhood obesity by partnering with West Towson Elementary School in an exciting initiative.

This all started over a year ago when GBMC was invited to participate in the Baltimore County Healthcare Coalition. As part of the Affordable Care Act, all states began creating plans to improve the health of their people.  Maryland turned to the counties to conduct an assessment of the health of the county and roll out a plan for improvement. So the Baltimore County Healthcare Coalition was formed and began work on three important health initiatives
  1. Tobacco cessation
  2.  Reducing childhood obesity
  3.  Reducing low birth weight
As a member of the committee to reduce childhood obesity, I realized how important it was to roll up our sleeves to do something tangible. So when the time came, we jumped at the opportunity to work with Baltimore County Schools and to partner with West Towson Elementary School, and their wonderful school nurse, Lisa Vanderwal. You see, they had a significant need. They had run an afterschool fitness program last year for girls, but did not have enough resources for the boys too. So, GBMC committed to running a fitness program for girls and boys at risk for childhood obesity. 

Thanks to two of GBMC’s nurse leaders - Cate O’Connor-Devlin and CJ Marbley – and GBMC employees who volunteered to help including Laura Mitchell, RN and her 16-year old daughter, GBMC kicked off the Westy’s afterschool fitness program, PlayFit, on May 8. The program is designed to attract the kids at risk for childhood obesity. The children are all fourth graders and out of 98 children, approximately 30 are participating in PlayFit. One parent of a student participating in the program commented in an email to Ms. Vanderwal, “I wanted to let you know that D really enjoyed Wednesday's PlayFit – and he was really reluctant! Thank you so much!”

They are off and running, literally, and our staff and the kids alike are having a great time while getting fit and healthy. We also sponsored Westy’sWalk on May 19th at Loyola-Blakefield which further encouraged fitness and fun.

And, best of all, this six-week fitness program will culminate with the kids walking in GBMC’s 25th annual Father’s Day 5K  event on June 16th . At the event, we’ll be sure to draw special attention to the kids and all they have accomplished – go Westy’s!

This effort goes to show that GBMC as a system of care has become involved in prevention of disease – childhood obesity for starters. We heard what some of the County’s issues were and took a step to enact a healthy change. We’re certainly proud of our partnership with the Westy’s and in our work with the coalition.

And speaking of the Father’s Day 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run – it’s the 25th anniversary of this special event that raises much needed funds for GBMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and premature, sick babies. The event is on Sunday, June 16th and there’s still time to register and donate. Click here for all the information.  

In other news, I am very pleased to announce that GBMC Healthcare has come to an agreement on a new one-year contract with 1199 Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers East (SEIU). GBMC has about 480 employees who work in bargaining-unit eligible positions. I thank the many GBMC and union leaders who worked tirelessly together for months to come to a mutually agreeable settlement that will no doubt benefit our union employees.

And finally, I am truly proud of another exceptional accomplishment by our dedicated oncology services team. As a result of hard work and a commitment to ongoing quality and excellence, the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC has received a three-year QOPI certification. For those who don’t know, the QOPI Certification Program recognizes medical oncology and hematology/oncology practices that are committed to delivering high quality cancer care including high safety standards. Our team, led by Dawn Stefanik, put many hours of work into this achievement  and I personally thank them for their extraordinary efforts!

And now, I’m off to get in a run so I can keep up with those Westy’s kids at the Father’s Day 5K!

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