Baltimore Community Outreach and Engagement Projects
Mission Statement for Baltimore
The Department of Environmental Health and Engineering (EHE) is committed to promoting public health and a healthy environment in Baltimore. To this end, EHE is engaged in numerous activities, including health promotion and screening programs, educational activities, and direct environmental health research in Baltimore communities. EHE centers, faculty, staff and students partner with a variety of community-based organizations, and local and state government agencies in Baltimore to improve the local environment and the health of the city residents. EHE provides educational opportunities and materials on a variety of topics, such as asthma prevention strategies, promotion of healthy homes, promotion of access to and consumption of healthy foods, and promotion of the health of our local waterways. Building trusting relationships and fostering bi-directional communications among local residents, community leaders and EHE staff is paramount to creating a healthy and just environment in Baltimore.
“Health Promotion: Day at Northeast Market”
Nearly twenty years ago, the Department’s community engagement coordinators, Barbara Bates-Hopkins and Pat Tracey helped to establish The Day at the Market, which is held at least two days a month at the Northeast Market. This program provides walk-up information on nutrition and a host of health concerns ranging from cancer, heart disease, asthma and diabetes. “The Day at the Market” has been active since that time, and most recently has provided blood pressure screening and other services to help people prevent and manage chronic illness.
Safer agriculture in Baltimore
To investigate potential metal contamination risks associated with urban agriculture in Baltimore City, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (based in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering) collaborated with the Farm Alliance of Baltimore, Parks & People Foundation, Baltimore City Office of Sustainability, and University of Maryland Extension – Baltimore City to design and implement the Safe Urban Harvests Study. During the 2017 growing season, researchers surveyed 104 farms and gardens in Baltimore City to learn about their growing practices and tested their soil, irrigation water, and produce for harmful metals. For comparative purposes, the researchers also collected and analyzed conventional and organic produce from grocery stores and farmers markets. The study found that, with rare exceptions, urban farmers and gardeners can continue growing safely in Baltimore City. This report summarizes the findings, and provides guidance on ways to reduce exposures to contaminants in urban agriculture.
Evaluating the impacts of energy options on Baltimore’s air quality
Kirsten Koehler and her team are working with researchers at Yale University on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-funded Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate, and Health (SEARCH) center is to evaluate how energy transitions impact local air quality and health. The team is evaluating how low-cost sensor technology can be used to evaluate neighborhood level variability in pollutant and greenhouse gas concentrations. A major focus of this project is to quantify the accuracy, precision, and calibration requirements for a low-cost network. To understand these processes at high spatiotemporal resolution and their implications for air quality and personal exposure, we built custom, low-cost air quality monitors that measure concentrations of contaminants relevant to human health and climate, including gases (O3, NO, NO2, CO, CO2, and CH4) and particulate matter and have deployed about ~45 units around the city of Baltimore since 2019. Koehler and her lab is using this network data to evaluate spatial and temporal patterns in air pollution exposures and to understand the role of important sources in the region on the variability observed.
A bird’s-eye view of pollutants to identify air quality intervention strategies for Baltimore
The laboratory of Peter DeCarlo is collaborating with the University of Maryland, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Maryland Department of the Environment to fly an instrument on a small aircraft to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in and around the Baltimore area. VOCs are a component of urban smog and are one of the key ingredients in generating ozone pollution in the mid-Atlantic summertime. Ozone is a pollutant which poses a risk to human health, and the purpose of this project is to identify the sources of the VOCs which contribute the chemical generation of ozone. Once the team has identified the mix of VOCs in the Baltimore area, they can link those to the sources, and develop strategies to reduce the emission of those VOCs in the area. Flights on the aircraft pictured will occur in the summer of 2022 with data analysis and results continuing through the year. This research is funded by a JHU Catalyst Award.
One Health and Asthma Prevention in Baltimore
The One Health Laboratory, helmed by Meghan Davis (a Baltimore City native), works on multiple projects to promote the health of inner-city Baltimore children and adults who have asthma. This work is in partnership with the School of Medicine and the BREATHE Center (formerly the Center for Childhood Asthma in the Urban Environment.) Its work evaluates whether colonization or environmental exposure to bacteria, specifically certain strains of Staphylococcus aureus, contribute to asthma exacerbations through an allergic mechanism. Children who live in Baltimore households of low economic means suffer disproportionately from skin and lung diseases, including asthma. This study will evaluate the burden of skin and respiratory disease among the dogs who live with them, through The City Dog Study: Dermatologic and Respiratory Disease among Inner-City Dogs Living in the Homes of Children with Asthma. Davis’ group also evaluates the health of pet dogs living with these children as part of the City Dog Study. Understanding how the health of people and their pets each is influenced by the other and by their shared environments will help us provide better medical and veterinary care to under-served communities and deliver more effective public health services.