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Johns Hopkins Hosts Symposium on Social Factors of Disease and Disparity


On April 23, Johns Hopkins University will host a major symposium to examine the social factors that drive the health inequalities in Baltimore and other urban communities. In the United States, social inequalities help explain why Americans still have poor outcomes on broad measures of health despite the billions of dollars spent nationally on medical care. The Second Annual Symposium on the Social Determinants of Health aims to raise awareness about the impact and importance of the social determinants of health and to identify actionable items that can be undertaken to reduce health inequalities.

“While only six miles separate the Baltimore neighborhoods of Roland Park and the Northeast Market, there is a 20-year difference in average life expectancy,” said symposium organizer, Robert Wm. Blum, MD, MPH, PhD, director of Urban Health Institute and the William H. Gates Sr. Professor and Chair of the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“When we think of the social determinants of health, not only are we talking about health services but access to housing, education, social supports, employment and other critical factors that together determine health outcomes. When it comes to infant mortality and life expectancy, we rank lower than most industrialized countries; and if Baltimore were a country it would rank 76th in the world for infant mortality. Without understanding and addressing those social factors that drive the health inequalities we don’t stand a chance to reverse these trends and statistics,” Blum explained.

The Second Annual Symposium on the Social Determinants of Health is sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Office of the Provost and the Urban Health Institute. Special emphasis will be given toward shifting the focus from studying the problems to implementing an action-based approach to solutions. The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on April 23 in Shriver Hall located on the University’s Homewood Campus.

The conference will kick off with a keynote address by Sir Michael Marmot, chair of World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, and will conclude with an address by Dr. Anthony Iton, president of the California Endowment. Dr. Oxiris Barbot, Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City, will also participate in the symposium, as will Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD 7th District). Other speakers include Dr. Adawale Troutman, president of the American Public Health Association, Dr. Mindy Fullilove, author of Root Shock, and Dr. James Comer, one of the nation’s leading educators.

Prominent researchers and community leaders will host sessions addressing the roles of incarceration and racism in driving health inequalities, engaging business in addressing the social determinants of health, building human and social capital, and pathways to a more healthy and equitable future here in Baltimore. The program is being structured to assure audience participation and engagement throughout the day.

All members of the Baltimore community are invited to attend. For additional information or to register for the event, please visit

Symposium agenda

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health media contact: Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or