By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer,

Improvements to health care have been a major cause for concern for residents of Prince George’s County but improvements continue.  The Centers for Disease Control recently announced that it has awarded a $12 million grant to help improve chronic health disease at facilities throughout the County and southern Maryland.

This five-year pact reached between the Prince George’s Health Department and the CDC is expected to have a multi-jurisdictional impact crossing County lines, also benefiting its neighboring municipalities. An estimated 1.2 million residents in Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties will gain access to strategies that will advance treatment resources and prevention programs in hopes of improving overall health outcomes for patients at high-risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The Centers for Disease Control announced it awarded a $12 million to help improve chronic health disease at facilities throughout Prince George’s County and southern Maryland.

“This is a tremendous step in the right direction to help our residents become healthier and live more productive lives,” said County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks in a prepared statement. “Access to high-quality, affordable health care services for everyone in Prince George’s County is one of my top priorities. I’m extremely proud of our Health Department for securing a grant that will build a stronger bridge connecting patients to the world-class care they need.”

Since 2017 the increase of diabetes, heart disease and stroke has claimed almost 3,000 lives throughout the four County region that may have been prevented with proper education and treatment. The cooperative agreement will fund strategies that establish or strengthen the integration of clinical practice with evidence-based public health programs so residents can become more proactive.

Unmanaged chronic disease continues to impact the region.  These chronic diseases continue to be among the leading causes of death statewide.  According to Prince George’s County Health and Human Services chronic disease contributes substantially to the rise of health care costs across the state. Approximately 10 percent of people living with chronic disease in this region of southern Maryland are responsible for 80 percent of the region’s chronic disease health care costs.

Many residents are still struggling to break down the common barriers associated with adequate healthcare for patients in this region especially those from low income communities.  Transportation, health literacy, poor health insurance coverage and the absence of emotional or social support are contributors to many of the health issues that are facing prospective patients.

“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 Prince George’s County Acting Health Officer Dr. Ernest L. Carter.

The CDC’s grant allows for the collaboration between local health departments and healthcare providers who educate and provide patients with strategies for preventative health maintenance.  More than 50 organizations including the county health department’s and private sector health maintenance organizations are teaming to develop innovative strategies to improve their quality of life.

“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,” added Dr. Carter.

Some of the strategies include using innovative technology, such as establishing a patient referral system between health care systems and CDC-recognized public health programs. Adopting telehealth programs to tackle barriers to participation and retention in these programs is another strategy to be implemented. The project also involves employing tailored messaging to reach underserved communities with the goal of increasing awareness of chronic diseases and the benefits of lifestyle changing programs.