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LARGO — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded the Prince George’s County Health Department (PGHD) a $12 million, five-year cooperative agreement to improve access to chronic disease care for more than one million residents in Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties.
The cooperative agreement will fund strategies that establish or strengthen the integration of clinical practice with evidence-based public health programs to improve treatment resources, prevention programs and overall health outcomes for patients in underserved areas at high-risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke, said a PGHD release.
The health department applied for the five-year cooperative agreement because it was an opportunity to make a significant impact on the health of County residents, according to Dellia Williams, public information officer for PGHD.
“The rural areas of Prince George’s County experience a unique set of barriers to accessing resources for chronic disease prevention and management. Residents of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties experience similar issues,” Williams said in an email interview. “The project aims to pilot innovative strategies for chronic disease prevention and management with a specific focus on underserved populations.”
Former County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III, was an advocate for healthcare and medical funding research throughout his eight-year term. He praised the work of the health department in acquiring the funds.
“I want to congratulate our health department for securing this important grant,” said Baker, also a member of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“My administration has always been focused on improving access to healthcare. A healthier Prince George’s County is good for our residents, the county and the state. I am extremely proud of the work that our health department has done over the last eight years to address health disparities and this grant will help us continue our efforts for years to come.”
The aforementioned chronic diseases are considered among the leading causes of death in Maryland. Heart disease reportedly caused more than 2,000 deaths in 2017 in the four-county area, while stroke and diabetes reportedly led to more than 850 deaths. Unmanaged chronic disease is said to have contributed largely to health care costs. PGHD lists lack of transportation, health illiteracy, lack of finances or health insurance coverage and lack of emotional or social support as some of the most common barriers to adequate care for patients in the region.
“Working with nearly two dozen leading public and private health care and medical organizations across the state, the Prince George’s County Health Department will harness this opportunity from the CDC and lead an ambitious effort to boost the health care infrastructure for underserved patients who need more help fighting or avoiding these debilitating and deadly diseases,” said Ernest L. Carter, Prince George’s County’s deputy health officer and principal investigator for the project.
“We plan to prioritize patients who are high-utilizers of health systems due to frequent hospitalizations and who live in more rural areas where access to care is limited compared to other areas of the state.”
The cooperative agreement began on Sept. 29. PGHD will determine how the money is spent, with oversight from the CDC, according to Williams.
Establishing a bi-directional patient referral system between health care systems and CDC-recognized public health programs, and adopting telehealth programs to connect patients in rural areas with chronic disease services will be integral components of the health department’s strategy in improving the health outcomes of a number of Maryland residents. The project will address 16 strategies set by the CDC – eight of which being related to diabetes and the other eight will address hypertension.
“These innovations will be developed after comprehensive assessment of the current chronic disease treatment system so gaps can be identified and addressed,” Williams said.
PGHD highlighted that the project will involve innovative uses of technology and the implementation of tailored messaging to reach underserved communities with the goal of increasing awareness of chronic diseases and the benefits of lifestyle change programs.
The partners of the project include: Calvert County Health Department; Charles County Health Department; Chesapeake Regional Information System for the Patients’ Community Care Coordination Team; Existing CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Programs; Health Quality Innovators; HealthCare Dynamics International Institute for Public Health Innovation; Maryland Department of Health; Maryland Rural Health Association; P3 Pharmacist Network (University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Maryland Pharmacists Association, Maryland General Assembly, Maryland Department of Health); Prince George’s County Healthcare Alliance, Inc.; St. Mary’s AccessHealth; St. Mary’s County Health Department; Totally Linked Care, LLC (Calvert Health Memorial Hospital, University of Maryland Capital Region North, Doctors Community Hospital, Fort Washington Medical Center, MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, Area Agencies on Aging, Maryland State Medical Society and Primary Care Providers, Prince George’s County Health Department, Calvert County Health Department); University of Maryland, School of Arts and Humanities, Department of Communication; University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology & Public Health; and University of Maryland, School of Public Health, Horowitz Center for Health Literacy.