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MD Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and School of Medicine Sponsor Conference Highlighting State’s Groundbreaking Health Enterprise Zones Initiative

Monday, May 19, 2014

 Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) held a conference on May 19, entitled “Maryland Health Enterprise Zones (HEZ): Using Incentives to Drive Local Progress.” This unique event, supported with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, brought together more than 200 local, state and national stakeholders to collaborate on ways to ensure health equality and improved health care for all Marylanders. The conference was held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Southern Management Corporation Campus Center.


Maryland’s first five HEZs were designated from a pool of 19 applicants in January 2013. Each of the five HEZs receive specific incentives, benefits and grant funding designed to reduce health disparities, leverage community health resources, expand access to health care and reduce health care costs.


“Health Enterprise Zones are an innovative way of addressing the health disparities that have plagued our communities for too long,” explained Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, who led the effort to establish the nation’s first HEZs, in a press release about the event. “By utilizing incentives and innovation to expand access to care and address the geographic and racial disparities that exist in our most underserved communities, we are working towards ensuring all Marylanders have access to the care they need to lead healthier lives.”


Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was the emcee for the event. The conference kicked off with keynote presentations by respected thought leaders in health care issues including: Jeffrey Brenner, MD, Executive Director of New Jersey’s Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers; Robert Greenbaum, PhD, Associate Director at The Ohio State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis; and Gerard Clancy, MD, President of the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa.


Dr. Brenner focused on the value of data as a key tool in improving health and reducing costs. Dr. Greenbaum provided strategic insights on addressing health disparities discussed the importance of evaluation and long-term analysis of key data. Dr. Clancy offered real-life applications by highlighting the accomplishments of Tulsa’s team-based model for health care and education built on the use of academic medicine to improve the health of individuals and communities in Oklahoma.


Panelists with a diverse set of expertise in economic and social enterprise initiatives shared their experiences and provided guidance on key considerations for promoting health equity. Interactive panel and audience discussions addressed the challenges and opportunities of HEZs and provide insights into ongoing efforts to address health disparities.


The state’s first five HEZs utilize diverse partnerships that integrate medical care, disease prevention, and public health to address the social determinants of health specific to each zone. Their efforts focus on specific health outcomes, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity and asthma.


Successes achieved by the HEZs in the first year include:

  • A total of 47 practitioners (38.1 FTEs) have been recruited exceeding the collective year-one recruitment goal of 38;
  • A total of 8 health care delivery sites have been opened or expanded services; and
  • A total of 87 jobs have been added in the HEZs. 

“The resources and incentives made available under the HEZ Initiative will help reduce health disparities, expand health care access, and reduce hospital costs,” added John A. Hurson, Chairman, Maryland Community Health Resources Commission. “We are excited to work with the HEZs as they complete their first year of implementation and move towards year two of the program.”


“The implementation of Health Enterprise Zones demonstrates the incredible potential when the government and academic health centers partner with community leaders to improve all patients’ lives,” said E. Albert Reece, who is the Vice President of Medical Affairs for the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor, as well as Dean of the UM SOM. “This conference serves as further evidence of our ongoing dialogue with local health leaders to identify the best approaches to measurably impact our citizens’ health and wellbeing.”


Senior Program Officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. David Krol said, “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is excited by the opportunity to support this conference so that these groundbreaking efforts from Maryland can be shared with the nation.”


“This conference will further the innovative work underway in Maryland to reduce and eliminate health disparities,” said Secretary Sharfstein. “We are grateful to Robert Wood Johnson for their support and making this conference possible.”


The conference agenda is available at: http://dhmh.maryland.gov/mhhd/Documents/Maryland%20Health%20Enterprise%20Zones%20Conference%20Agenda%20For%20Distribution.pdf


For more information about the HEZs, visit http://dhmh.maryland.gov/healthenterprisezones/SitePages/Home.aspx


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