Learning to Live In Baltimore

posted in: Blog, Healthy Schools | 0

 

How schools can improve the health of students and their communities

The 2017 Neighborhood Health Report by the Baltimore City Health Department is hard to read.                               It spells out the stark disparities and desperation in our city with a clarity that is hard to confront.                           We don’t want the details about homicides, increasing overdoses, and low life expectancy to be about our city–but they are.   

It is no secret that death comes easy in Baltimore.  Average life expectancy here is 73.6 years, about five years less than the national average of 78.8 and six years less than the Maryland state average of 79.5.  This is disturbing, but when we compare life expectancy of our neighborhoods, the disparities are glaring.   

The Clifton-Berea (94.9% African American, median income $25,738) has a life expectancy of 66.9 years while Cross-Country/Cheswolde (72.9% White, median income $54,868) has a life expectancy of 87.1 years.   

This is a 20-year difference between life expectancy in a predominantly white, middle income neighborhood and a black, lower income neighborhood. We know that our neighborhoods have long been divided along    racial and economic lines, but this gap isn’t just the shadow of our segregated history, it’s the misery of life in poor, segregated neighborhoods today.

Chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity are the leading causes of death in Baltimore and the nation.  In 2014, approximately one third of Baltimore City residents were obese.  Obesity is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Drugs and alcohol overdose deaths increased 56.6% from 2015 to 2016 when 694 people died.   Homicides, most related to drugs, add to this total of drug related deaths. There were 318 Homicides in 2016.   On the 300th day of 2017, 291 homicides have been recorded, a rate of nearly one a day. 

How long will we allow this misery to exist?                                                                                                          What will we do now to change these brutal statistics in the years ahead?

If our schools are truly preparing children for life, we need to ensure that they won’t suffer the same chronic diseases, addictions, and violence a few years into the future. 

Growing the mind, body and spirit of our children, their families, and their community should be the primary goal of our schools.   This is a key shift in how we now view the mission and role of schools.  

 

Here is a quick checklist.  How is your school doing?

  • Is every child getting good nutrition and learning to create healthy meals?
  • Is every child getting an hour of exercise every day?
  • Is every child getting regular medical, dental, and vision checkups?
  • Is every child offered mental health services?
  • Is every child offered meditation or yoga training to relieve stress?
  • Is every child connected to trusted adult mentors?
  • Is every child offered time to learn and play in nature?
  • Is every child learning conflict resolution and peer conflict mediation?            
  • Is every child taking health information home to their families on health access, addiction treatment programs, jobs and social services?
  • Is your school free from asthma triggers like mice, cockroaches, dust, bus idling, air fresheners and toxic cleaning materials?
  • Are classroom temperatures between 65 and 78 degrees?
  • Do students have free access to water and bathrooms?

                                      

Some of this is happening now. 

Some schools have yoga and meditation centers; some are improving their nutrition and outdoor education programs; some are instituting peer conflict mediation programs; some have health suites and vision care for students.  Some schools are involved with THREAD, which provides mentors for at risk students.

 

Some is not enough. 

Every school needs to meet the human needs of every child. This isn’t easy, and schools are already overwhelmed. Expanding out of school programs, integrating community programs, and bringing in more volunteers from the community can help create this change.

If we realign education to the needs of our students, they will do better in school–and in life. They will be ready to reclaim Baltimore and the years of life which are rightfully theirs.                                                  -shan

 

 

Want to learn more about health in Baltimore City? 

Here is a link to the 2017 health report on Baltimore City as a whole. 

https://health.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/NHP%202017%20-%2000%20Baltimore%20City%20(overall)%20(rev%206-22-17).pdf

 

Here is the link to download the individual neighborhood profiles:

https://health.baltimorecity.gov/neighborhoods/neighborhood-health-profile-reports

 

Here are links to a variety of health maps.

 

2013 life expectancy:

http://baltimore.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=7c85a6d5b958496d863e738234373934

Teen birth rate

http://baltimore.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=7c85a6d5b958496d863e738234373934

Violent crime 2013

http://baltimore.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=7c85a6d5b958496d863e738234373934

Avertable deaths 2011

http://health.baltimorecity.gov/sites/default/files/Map_Healthy%20Baltimore%20-%20Avertable%20Deaths.pdf

2015 homicide epidemic

http://baltimore.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=995f2e81bd664b478a9039741c62ea3a

Science out of the Silos

posted in: Blog, Healthy Schools, STEM | 0

social working fin by .

 

 

 The New Scientific Breakthroughs:

            How and Who

 

When we list our most important scientific breakthroughs, we usually note the discoveries of new evidence: ancient bones, DNA, black holes and medicines. 

But could our biggest recent breakthrough be not what have found, but how we collaborate in our research?

There is a new paradigm for scientific research that could change how we study, what we study, and whether our research is useful in solving the problems it identified. 

Community research grants offer communities and organizations a collaborative role in researching health and social problems, training in scientific investigations, and a shared communication of the results and implications of these studies. For communities, which have never been offered a role in research studies other than unpaid lab rats, this is a big deal.

These partnerships can help communities develop research and design interventions to improve the lives of their members and clients. For scientists, these partnerships offer keen insights into the social, economic and cultural factors which affect these issues and ongoing access to these programs for follow up research opportunities which can test the effect of interventions as they are implemented over time.

My favorite opportunity for these grants is at K-12 schools where students and college researchers could collaborate on issues which affect the health and learning of students, their families and communities.  These collaborations could help enrich the science curriculum, develop mentoring partnerships that create bridges to colleges, and help schools become a locus for building healthy communities.

I love science and scientists, but I will not miss the high holy research design where lab coats and equipment appeared and disappeared without a trace save for a mention in a scientific journal or conference. The job of science is to create better understanding and better outcomes. When it descends from the tower of science, it is a valuable tool of positive social change.

I’m excited to see what we will learn, when we are learning together.

Creating Healthy, Smart Schools

posted in: Healthy Schools, Healthy Schools | 0

If we wish to create schools that  promote the health, learning and lives of our students,  we must involve students as full partners in this adventure.

When students help design and maintain their school environment, they gain knowledge, voice and responsibility.

In turn, the school gets expert advice on what works for kids, innovative ideas and children who feel ownership for their school.

Creating healthier, smarter schools starts and ends with creating healthier, smarter students, empowered by their learning, actions and decisions.

 

The following posts include :

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise, a learning project that involves students in understanding and improving their school environment,

A report on a Sustainability Study of Southwest Baltimore Charter School,

Videos of students and teachers describing how their energy study led to the installation of solar tubes to help light their school

School energy experts describing potential savings and successful energy challenges.

and an outline of  Innovate your School, an upcoming  innovation challenge at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

I look forward to adding more projects to this list soon.   Do you have some that we should post here?

Let’s share this new way of empowering our children and improving our schools.

 

-shan