Lawmakers and Hogan Cabinet Members Join Forces to Increase Health Equity Across the State

    The Maryland Department of Health unveiled a commission tasked with decreasing racial, ethnic and socioeconomic health disparities across the state Friday.

    “Our commission is the latest initiative to help align interrelated statewide efforts that have the potential to make significant improvements in Marylanders’ lives,” said Steven R. Schuh, deputy secretary for health care financing and Medicaid for the Department of Health. “We’re working not only within Maryland’s healthcare system to address disparities, but across the many systems that influence health outcomes.”

    The Maryland Commission on Health Equity is a multi-agency committee was created under the Shirley Nathan-Pulliam Health Equity Act of 2021, which was championed through the legislature by House Health and Government Operations Committee Vice Chair Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s). Its mission is to align public and private policy to elevate health equity across the state, and plans to align with Maryland’s Statewide Integrated Health Improvement Strategy to reduce health outcome disparities in maternal and child health, diabetes and overdose mortality.

    “Health equity is good for all Marylanders. It means better and more affordable healthcare and better quality of life,” Peña-Melynk said in a statement Friday. “We all deserve our best health. I am pleased to see the work of this commission getting underway.”

    The commission will be split into two subcommittees: one to make recommendations on data collection through the state’s Chesapeake Regional Information System for Our Patients, Inc. (CRISP); the other will advise mechanisms to implement a statewide health equity framework.

    The 26-person commission will hold its first meeting Monday. Members include House Speaker Pro-Tem Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-Lower Shore), Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), and a number of major Hogan administration cabinet members, including:

    • Schuh, who will serve as the committee chair;
    • Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Robert L. Green;
    • Department of Budget and Management Secretary David R. Brinkley;
    • Department of Disabilities Director of Health and Behavioral Health Policy Kirsten Robb-McGrath;
    • Maryland State Department of Education Assistant Superintendent Sylvia Lawson;
    • Maryland State Police Capt. Derek B. Peck;
    • Department of Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater;
    • Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health Dr. Aliyah Jones;
    • Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health Dr. Jinlene Chan; and
    • Maryland Insurance Administration Commissioner Kathleen A. Birrane, among other officials.

    Dr. Noel Brathwaite, the director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities for the Department of Health, and Dr. Jeffrey Woolford, the department’s assistant secretary, will serve the commission in an advisory capacity.

    “I am honored and encouraged to be part of the [Maryland Commission on Health Equity],” Washington said. “With my colleagues, I will strive to combat racial disparities and move forward to equity in care and health outcomes for the state of Maryland.”

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    Hannah Gaskill
    Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.