Nationwide, all citizens have access to comprehensive and high quality healthcare. Having access to a network of highly trained and competent healthcare professionals gives each person the opportunity to maintain optimal mental, physical and relational health. By having access to a multidisciplinary healthcare team can also ensure immediate access to the right medical professional to treat emerging health issues.
Health Disparities in Prince George’s County
In Prince George’s County and across the nation, we have seen that people of color and those of low socioeconomic status are at a much greater risk of experiencing serious health complications from COVID-19 due to factors like diet-related chronic disease, food insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, and occupation.
Access to health care is crucial to staying healthy year-round. In Prince George’s County, many people of color did not have health insurance. For example, in 2014 only 47.1% of Hispanic residents had access to health insurance. During the pandemic, Hispanic residents have become hospitalized at a rate 3.5 times greater than for white residents. While this is due to multiple factors, it is worth considering whether increased access to health care could have decreased infection and hospitalization rates among Hispanic communities.
Food is one of the basic necessities for life, and everybody has the right to access healthy food. Healthy food access is not only important for public health but also to build a sustainable and equitable community.
According to a study done by The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George county residents are having difficulty accessing quality, nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food within a reasonable distance from where they live. It is not the lack of supermarkets but the spatial distribution of them and the quality and price of products they carry that create inequality in accessing healthy food. There are more than enough supermarkets in the study area; in fact, there are 20 more supermarkets than this market would normally support. Therefore, opening new supermarkets may not solve the problem. Food access challenges are more related to the quality of local stores and what they carry than the physical access to food outlets.
While Prince George’s County has both pre and post-pandemic interventions for pandemic relief, there is still more that can be done to ensure the health and safety of all residents. It’s important that Prince George’s County leaders work to increase access to healthcare services, affordable healthy food, high-quality housing, and additional resources to help maintain good public health in the face of the current pandemic and future public health or environmental crises.
One way we are saying change is through the new University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center, which is expected to provide quality care to more than 1 million people in Prince George’s County and Southern Maryland.
University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center
The facility, which is part of the University of Maryland Medical System’s network of 13 hospitals, has private rooms instead of the two-patient rooms at Cheverly, a bigger emergency room department, beds specifically reserved for children and a floor dedicated to cardiovascular care.
Prince George’s County Council member Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) described the opening saying that “There’s a sense of pride . . . but also a sense that more is to come.”