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Bloomberg American Health Summit Highlights Power of Connection to Advance Health and Equity

Public health experts and students convened to share how key evidence can advance equitable solutions to pressing public health issues, and which policies can make a difference.


The Bloomberg American Health Summit convened public health practitioners, policymakers, community organizations, and Bloomberg Fellows from around the country this week in Baltimore to explore uncommon connections and partnerships that are advancing health and equity across the country.

The Summit, hosted by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Bloomberg Philanthropies, took place Nov. 6–8 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel.

Speakers included public health officials, leaders from state and federal health agencies, Bloomberg School faculty, journalists, and representatives from nonprofit organizations. Sessions covered strategies for preventing overdose deaths, ways to improve the U.S. food system, solutions to improve the youth criminal justice system, and public health approaches to violence prevention.

Here are highlights and commentary from featured speakers on November 7:

  • Letitia Dzirasa, Deputy Mayor of Equity, Health, and Human Services in Baltimore City As I reflected on this year’s theme of connection, I was encouraged by just how apt and timely this topic is. In what I hope is a paradigm shift, we are seeing the country at large and Baltimore specifically break down traditional organizational silos. I believe this intentional shift will better allow us to collectively and collaboratively create innovative solutions to address the social determinants of health.

    Dzirasa was also recognized by Bloomberg American Health Initiative director Josh Sharfstein, deputy director Michelle Spencer, and the Summit audience for her previous work as the health commissioner of Baltimore City where, among many achievements, she created a community health workforce to help meet Baltimore’s urgent health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • John Balbus, Director of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in remarks about the health care sector’s role in addressing climate change:
    The health sector is essential to reducing the climate suffering of disadvantaged populations, but it won’t magically happen. … Climate action needs to be embedded throughout the practice of medicine, social service, and public health. These actions must include both resilience actions and greenhouse reduction actions. Once we’ve achieved that, we will not only be well on the way to bringing more equity to communities suffering from climate change impacts, but the health sector will have something more tangible and concrete to bring to the climate policy discussions. It’s not enough for the health care sector to demand a seat at the climate table. By taking the path of leadership and making climate actions routine throughout all our institutions we will have earned that seat. 
  • Rosemarie Hidalgo, Director of the Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice, on the importance of addressing and preventing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other forms of gender-based violence:
    Fostering a coordinated community response to violence reflects the theme of the Summit—the theme of connections. While it might be easier to do our work in silos, we realize the lives of survivors do not exist in silos. They need us to be making these connections and doing this work in a more comprehensive way. This coordinated community response recognizes the important role of many different sectors at the local level—court systems, local advocates, and many others providing supportive services.
  • Laura Herrera Scott, Secretary of Health for Maryland, speaking on behavioral health programs in Maryland:
    Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of unmet behavioral health needs. If we can start to address these needs earlier, we can also address the issues of poverty. We need interagency coordination to ensure the continuum of care is available for all children and their families.
  • Dora Hughes, Chief Medical Officer, CMS Innovation Center at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in remarks about CMS’ efforts to foster the connections between health care, public health, and social services that can advance equitable solutions to improve health:
    These are the types of connections that CMS is beginning to support—community connections—because we know that where our beneficiaries live, where they work, where they learn, and where they age—all can have a profound impact … on their health and longevity.

  • Michael R. Bloomberg, ​​founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP and World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, said in a recorded message:
    Every year the Summit convenes the doers who are confronting today’s most persistent health challenges and saving lives, hand in hand with communities and partners nationwide. That work is not easy, especially as public health has become a political football and more elected leaders are afraid to follow data and evidence. The political courage to do what’s right for public health has always been in short supply, but we know progress is possible.

Marking its sixth year, the Bloomberg American Health Summit is an opportunity for traditional and non-traditional public health sectors to collaborate and advance health in the U.S. The event highlights policy opportunities in public health, with a focus on equity, and recognized public health leaders.

The theme of this year’s Bloomberg American Health Summit focused on connections among researchers, practitioners, advocates, policymakers, and community organizations to drive change. Even before the recent pandemic, the field of public health has been grounded by connections—between research and policy, people and their communities, anchoring practice with the lived experience of those most impacted. It takes connections—from research to practice—to make the biggest impact.

Panels included addressing food insecurities in Baltimore; addressing vacant lots, also in Baltimore; improving adolescent health; the connection between structural racism and the environment; a call to action for missing and murdered Black women; the connection between social media and teen gun violence; and conversations on harm reduction and overdose prevention, including in Indigenous communities, and more.

Two research projects led by Bloomberg School faculty were also featured. The first, led by Shima Hamidi, PhD, Bloomberg Assistant Professor of American Health, found that narrower traffic lanes in cities can help lower the risk of collisions. The second project, led by Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH, associate professor, and Mallory O’Brien, associate scientist, focused on how Violence Reduction Councils, a diverse set of stakeholders including criminal justice, social service, public health, and community organizations, can reduce violence in cities.

To watch the full recording and hear from other public health experts, including Bloomberg Fellows, click on the video link below.

The Bloomberg Fellows Program, a component of the Initiative, provides full-tuition scholarships for graduate degrees at the Bloomberg School to those whose work aligns with the Initiative’s focus areas. The Bloomberg Fellows Program is rooted in collaboration: supporting Fellows during their studies and engaging their organizations through programming. The Program requires that graduates return to work with their employers for at least one additional year. Over 300 Bloomberg Fellows attended this year’s Summit.

Video Assets for Media Use:

  • Video recording is available here.
  • Social: Catch up on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn with #BloombergHealthSummit2023

About the Bloomberg American Health Initiative:

The Bloomberg American Health Initiative was developed at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to tackle five core issues that deeply challenge the nation’s health: addiction and overdose; adolescent health; environmental challenges; food systems for health; and violence. The Initiative’s work with faculty, fellows, and collaborating organizations is building a dynamic nationwide network committed to harnessing data and developing new approaches to public health that will ensure a healthier future for all Americans. The Bloomberg American Health Initiative was established with a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Learn more here: Bloomberg American Health Initiative.

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Media contacts: Caitlin Hoffman and Su Tellakat