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the changing face of america

BUILDING Healthier COMMUNITIES FOR AN Aging POPULATION S TAT E S A R E FAC I N G A N U N D E N I A B L E C H A L L E N G E F O R T H E F U T U R E — nearly one in five people in the U.S. will be over 65 years old by 2030. Will these seniors have access to medical care, transportation, housing, and the income to pay for it all? Fixed incomes and high health care costs associated with aging are at odds. Some state leaders are planning now to build communities that can accommodate this impending shift in demographics.

by Debra Miller and Emily McCarthy


Maryland discovered some surprising senior needs through a larger endeavor called Health Enterprise Zones, or HEZs, that targeted five impoverished areas of the state with poor health outcomes. A group of state officials, academic leaders, public health experts and community leaders came together to devise plans to improve the five communities. Under SB 234, adopted in 2012, Maryland appropriated $4 million for a period of four years for the HEZs. The law set out four goals for the HEZs: to reduce health disparities; to reduce hospital admissions and re­ admissions; to reduce health care costs, including emergency room visits; and to improve health outcomes, Johns Hopkins University professor Michelle Spencer said. Spencer was director of prevention and health promotion for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and led the early efforts of the HEZs.


“We need innovative solutions to address health disparities in our communities,” she said. “This project took the time and commitment of many people that want to see improved conditions for our citizens.” “One of the surprising things we discovered was that many seniors calling 911 simply wanted someone to talk to or needed help with activities of daily living. They should not have to turn to emergency services for help.”

Capitol Ideas | November, December, 2017  
Capitol Ideas | November, December, 2017  

Changing Face of America