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The Baltimore Sun

Education can heal health disparities

The Baltimore Sun's shocking front-page statistics on the life-span differences among Baltimore neighborhoods stunned even seasoned community health professionals like me and my staff ("20-year life gap separates city's poorest, wealthy," Oct. 16).

But they shouldn't. This is just the latest study confirming what we see every day in our health centers: outrageous health disparities related to poverty, lifestyle, environmental exposure and other preventable causes.

As the article's opening snapshots of Hollins Market and Roland Park make clear, the toll is not just in deaths but also in disability - e.g. poorer mid-life residents using canes vs. active wealthier retirees who swim and hike.

At the Baltimore Medical System, we see 46,000 low-income Baltimore residents annually. Our patients suffer terribly from preventable diseases.

BMS is tireless in trying to make doctors' visits affordable to uninsured and under-insured people. But access to doctors is not enough. Our patients need much more education about their health risks. And to make that happen BMS needs more space and more funding.

I applaud Mayor Sheila Dixon, Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua M. Sharfstein and Councilwoman Helen Holton for recognizing that there is no substitute for addressing the economic issues that underlie health.

We need more investment in community health center buildings. Raising capital for new clinics is extremely difficult.

We also must invest in health education, which is not a benefit covered by health insurance but has the power to save lives and reduce disability.

Low-income people, especially, need opportunities to learn how their lifestyle choices and environmental exposures affect their health.

Funding health education programs is an important way to give people control over their health.

Jay Wolvovsky, Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of the Baltimore Medical System.

Crazy to cut transit while we build ICC

Let me get this right: The Maryland Transit Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation are cutting commuter bus and train services ("MTA to cut commuter bus routes," Oct. 17) that, by getting commuters out of their cars, are a very important way to reduce greenhouse gases, even as the Department of Transportation insists on continuing to build the ill-conceived Intercounty Connector, a road that will cost more than $2 billion and increase greenhouse gases by putting even more automobiles and trucks on our roads.

How crazy is that?

Ajax Eastman, Baltimore

Amendment would give slots too much license

In addition to all the other pros and cons about slots for Maryland, there is one major feature of this referendum that merits some thought ("The pros and cons of slots," Oct. 12).

Since the slots referendum would add a new article to the state constitution, doesn't this guarantee the beneficiaries of the slots licenses an inordinate degree of protection from legislative control?

How will it be possible for the legislature to modify, restrict, or alter slots gambling without another referendum?

I believe that slots should be legalized (indeed, we have had de-facto slots gambling in the form of video poker games in my neighborhood for decades).

But I will vote against this referendum and ask that our legislature get back to work and pass a proper slots bill.

Robert J. Sopka, Catonsville

Readers want views of local reviewers

It infuriates me that The Baltimore Sun employs two very well-versed film critics (Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach) yet runs wire-service reviews of new movies opening in Baltimore.

If we wanted to read what the critic from San Francisco Chronicle or the Los Angles Times had to say about the movies that are opening at the Charles Theatre, we would read those papers online.

We read a local paper to find out what the local critics think and how it relates to the film community here.

John Waters, Baltimore

The writer is the author and director of "Hairspray" and many other films.

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