Health Disparities

brushing teeth“It is time to refocus, reinforce, and repeat the message that health disparities exist and that health equity benefits everyone.” – Kathleen G. Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services

Among the 24 county jurisdictions in Maryland, Dorchester County, also known as the “Heart of the Chesapeake” is one of the least healthy counties in the state ranking 22nd but just a ninety minute drive away, Howard County received the number 1 healthiest county ranking. Below is a sample of some of the disparities that exist between the two counties.


March 14, 2014 – CAMBRIDGE, Md. – Dorchester County is the heart of Chesapeake Country.

But officials say that is not necessarily the healthiest. The county ranks amongst some of the highest in obesity rates in the state, According To The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

As a result, Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center director Jake Frego says doctors in Dorchester have nearly doubled their workload with about 1,400 patients per primary care physician.

ESAHEC continuing education coordinator Jennifer Berkman says “it’s very different than being in a metropolitan area where you have access to a lot of resources.”

To help with the disparity, ESAHEC says it’s collaborating with the University of Maryland School of Medicine to bring much needed resources to the area, which includes bringing in medical students from across the Bay Bridge. For about four to six weeks, Frego says students are housed in different parts of the region working closely with patients in the rural community.

“Preceptors are with the students to have them experience what it’s like to live and work in rural area,” said Frego.

The organization is also working to develop doctors of the future encouraging high school students to get into the health care field. Frego says it’s pushing continuing education in hopes of increasing the number of advanced level nursing assistants in the area, with efforts to close the gap and expand the medical community in areas that need it the most.

The partnership between the University of Maryland School of Medicine and ESAHEC could become a national model for how to deal with rural health disparities.

Voices of Maryland: Identifying Barriers to Healthy Lifestyles

Kent County Photovoice
from Institute for a Healthiest MD on Vimeo.

Wicomico County Photovoice
from Institute for a Healthiest MD on Vimeo.