By Shar Ferrell

In the bustling city of Baltimore, amidst the myriad of healthcare services and insurance providers, CareFirst has taken a step forward to redefine the way we approach health and wellness. Welcome to the CareFirst Engagement Center (CEC), where health isn’t just a card in your pocket but a partner in your life. It’s where you can access the tools and resources you need, regardless of your insurance status.

This groundbreaking initiative is a testament to CareFirst’s commitment to improving the lives of its members and the broader community.

Elevating Health and Wellness

The CEC is a place where you can put a name and face to the multitude of health and wellness resources that CareFirst offers. Whether you’re a CareFirst member unaware of the breadth services at your disposal or a community member looking for resources to support your health, the CEC, located inside the lobby of CareFirst’s Canton headquarters, has staff on-site to guide you on your journey to better health. This initiative is all about simplicity, clarity, and human connection. It’s a one-on-one conversation, a helping hand in your health journey.

The CEC isn’t just for cardholders; it’s for anyone seeking to improve their health. From Pilates classes to mindfulness practices, we offer opportunities that transcend insurance barriers. We believe that access to health and wellness should be a universal right, not a privilege.

We also know that your health is about more than just what happens at the doctor’s office. In fact, 80% of our health is determined by non-medical factors—things like access to healthy food, employment opportunities, reliable transportation and more. So we offer resources that help people identify what they need to know and where to find the resources at their disposal.

From home-buying courses to legal and community basics, the CEC equips people with essential life skills. Unstable housing can have a significant, negative impact on health outcomes, so we offer resources to help people become homeowners and manage their budgets. We also provide courses on legal basics and community engagement to build social cohesion and improve overall wellness.

As we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic, social isolation has become more apparent. The CEC’s community basics course focuses on fostering engagement, effective communication with neighbors, and creating a positive impact in your community. It’s about fostering fulfillment, which is essential for a healthier, happier life.

A Community-Driven Approach

The CEC is not just a random concept; it’s the result of years of community engagement and partnership. CareFirst has been actively working to understand the unique social needs of various communities within the city. We’ve listened, learned, and collaborated with local organizations to build trust and establish a stronger connection with community members.

Our goal is to provide health and wellness resources where they are needed most, without disrupting the existing services people rely on. The CEC acts as a conduit, connecting individuals with partners and activities they need and that data shows are lacking in their immediate area, with the ultimate aim of improving health outcomes.

Moreover, the CEC encourages social cohesion by bringing people from different communities together through shared, holistic wellness activities. It is more than just a physical space; it is a solution for addressing social and community needs through a wellness lens.

One Size Does Not Fit All

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to healthcare. What works in one community might not work in another. In communities in West Baltimore, we’re investing even more time and resources to build trust and cater to the specific needs of a historically underserved community.

Access to reliable transportation is a significant barrier in this area, affecting employment opportunities, access to healthy food, childcare options, and more. To address this, we’re launching a physical space in Mondawmin Mall, a location with an established public transportation infrastructure, making our services more accessible to the community.

This physical space will also serve as the home of our West Baltimore Workforce Development Initiative—a pilot program that creates member service and support employment opportunities for residents of West Baltimore. In addition to creating jobs, the initiative will also connect residents to vital social services at an established community location.

The CareFirst Engagement Center is a remarkable initiative that seeks to make healthcare and wellness accessible, regardless of insurance status. It’s not just about physical health; it’s about addressing social and community needs to improve the overall well-being of our beloved Baltimore community. CareFirst is not just an insurance provider; it’s a partner in your health journey, and the CareFirst Engagement Center is a testament to that commitment.

Shar Ferrell is the Director of CareFirst Engagement Centers. In her role, Shar is responsible for growing the organization’s community engagement strategy through implementation of improved health and wellbeing programming, with particular emphasis on addressing social determinants of health. Learn more about the services and resources offered through the CareFirst Engagement Center at