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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University May 5, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 33
Urban Health Institute Hosts Baltimore Research Day

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

In an effort to examine the impact of research on the health status of Baltimoreans and health policies in the city, the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute this winter put out a citywide announcement that in effect asked, "Got abstracts?" The reply came back resoundingly affirmative, and this week the public can see and hear the results for themselves.

The wealth of health research conducted directly in Charm City during the past 25 years will be showcased on Friday, when the Urban Health Institute hosts its inaugural Baltimore Research Day. The half-day event will spotlight a wide range of issues, including HIV, asthma, early childhood health, family health, substance abuse and injury prevention. Researchers from across the city submitted papers, and nearly 30 of them will be presented.

Participants will include policy-makers and students and researchers from a number of universities and community groups, including Johns Hopkins, Morgan State University, Towson University, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, as well as a number of city agencies.

In addition, a policy impact award will be presented at the event, co-chaired by Bernard Guyer, of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore City health commissioner.

Guyer said that a chief goal of the conference is to examine the linkages between research about Baltimore and policy, in order to make the city a healthier place.

"I believe that inherent to the mandate for the Urban Health Institute is the need to assure that we are addressing the needs of the Baltimore community through all of our endeavors, including research," said Guyer, the Zanvyl Krieger Professor of Children's Health at the Bloomberg School. "We are not just here to treat problems once they occur. Rather, we need to be actively thinking about promoting a research agenda that will promote a healthier community in all of its dimensions. Hopefully, this research conference in partnership with the City Health Department will help us all move along that road to collaborative research."

In terms of Johns Hopkins' role in Baltimore-based research, the issue is a complex one, Guyer said. Johns Hopkins, he said, is an internationally renowned research university that finds itself in the middle of a very disadvantaged population that suffers from many health problems. And this fact begs the question, How has our research endeavor benefited the community? Baltimore Research Day, he said, will examine that question as it pertains to all its participants.

The event will be held from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Bloomberg School's Feinstone Hall. It kicks off with a poster session, followed by two moderated discussion sessions: Sustaining Research and Policy Dialogues and Innovative Community-Based Research.

In the first session, the featured abstracts will be "Declining Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis C Virus Prevalence Over 20 Years Among HIV-Positive and -Negative Injection Drug Users in Baltimore (1988-2007)" and "Innovative Partnerships Drive Home Safety."

The second session will look at "The Impact of the Breathmobile on Asthma Outcomes in Underserved City Children" and "The Three-Generation Project: A Home Intervention That Delays the Introduction of Solid Foods and Second Births Among Low-Income African-American Adolescent Mothers and Infants."

Sharfstein said that Baltimore has a high infant death rate, and it's vital that research like the Three-Generation Project is conducted to find out why.

In reference to the event itself, Sharfstein said he hopes it stimulates public debate and informs both the policy-makers and researchers in attendance. For community members, he said, the day is an opportunity to learn how research works and what is being done to improve health outcomes.

Sharfstein added that the presentations will be general in nature and not overly technical. "This will not be your typical research symposium," he said.

Sharfstein said the discussions will also look at the instances when research and action are separated.

"It's frustrating for both policy-makers and researchers that research does not always have the impact it can and maybe should have," he said. "It's important that people see that research has the potential to translate into action that can save a lot of lives. If research and action are disconnected, it just fuels the misconception that research is there for its own sake."

Based on the success of the conference, the Urban Health Institute will decide whether Baltimore Research Day should be an annual event.

For more information, contact Amy Gawad at or 410-502-7473.


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