Spring to Health in All Baltimore’s Neighborhoods


Maryland Institute College Art (Mica) has one of its outposts on Collington Avenue in East Baltimore.

A few months ago Baltimore City Health Department published Neighborhood Health Profiles. This publication is a compilation document of broad range of data that addresses health outcomes and social determinants of health in 55 Baltimore neighborhoods. The Neighborhood Health Profiles makes an important read. It rightly looks at the social indicators of health, including education, housing, safety, and access to nutritious food. But I advise that you do not read the document before bed-time - the data will keep you up all night if you really start thinking of the daunting health challenges that many people of this city live with.

The plan is that in just three years Baltimore celebrates the success of Healthy Baltimore 2015. Health Commissioner, Oxiris Barbot, in neigborhood health event at Cylburn.

This spring Baltimore City Health Department has been going around the city to explain the neighborhood health profiles data and connect with the public. I went to follow their presentation in Cylburn Arboretum. The data is important, Oxiris Barbot’s and the Health Department’s effort to build a dialogue praiseworthy, but it is a challenge to connect with more than the usual suspects when one aims to discuss the results of research and the next steps. It also is not easy to get a real feel of the issues when one reads the data or sits in the comfort of a meeting room.

Dundalk in South Baltimore is an industrial hub but also attracts young athletes to its fields.

So I went around the city to document what the neighborhood health profiles mean in pictures. I did not merely want to show the tragedy of some of Baltimore’s neighborhoods, but wanted rather to capture signs of hope and spring even in the underserved, struggling neighborhoods.


It is bad news that Baltimore has about 16,000 vacant homes. A fire in Park Heights.


One of the neighborhoods that I followed for this posting, East Baltimore (data concerning Madison/ East Baltimore) is in the disreputable company of the USA’s toughest neighborhoods. The people in the second area, Park Heights, have to watch out that they do not fall in the same group.  The third neighborhood, Charles Village/ Barclay, is the home of many Johns Hopkins students and artists. It is just a bit wealthier than  East  Baltimore or Park Heights. The real difference is not money but education. You will see that education comes with a few significant health benefits.

Roland Avenue in North Baltimore homes some of the city's best schools and several churches. Here Roland Park Presbyterian.

The fourth featured area, North Baltimore/ Guilford/ Homeland, is the land of the safe, healthy, and educated. As a group these people live well beyond the country’s average life expectancy of 78.5 years. The difference in life expectancy between the city’s struggling and well-to-do neighborhoods is whopping twenty years. This is obviously not good news at all for those areas where some struggle to stay alive beyond their teen years.

Park Heights Community Health Alliance's community garden was in full swing by late March.


Let’s look at some data generously compiled in the Baltimore City Health Department’s Neighborhood Health Profiles; let’s match the data with some pictures of Baltimore spring. Spring and hope do not come in equal measure to various parts of the city, but, fear not, in Baltimore the most beautiful flowers spurt up from the roughest soil.


East Baltimore (data relating to Madison/East End area).

Pastor Gary Dittman's office at Amazing Grace Church in McElderry is a testimony to some of the things that needs to get done in East Baltimore.

Median household income (2010):  $30,389 (Baltimore City $37,395).

Families in poverty (2010): 27.6 % (Baltimore City 15.2 %).
Persons over 25 with Bachelors degree or higher (2009): 4.4 % (Baltimore 25 %).

Tobacco stores per 10,000 residents (2009): 50.1 (Baltimore City 21.8).

I spy flowers, fresh paint, and a pretty porch with detailing on Patternson Park Avenue in East Baltimore.


Vacant Buildings per 10,000 housing units (2009): 2697 (Baltimore City 567).

Life Expectancy (2010): 64.8 (Baltimore City 71.8)

Teen (15-19) birth rate per 1,000 persons: 121.5 (Baltimore City 65.4).



(Southern) Park Heights:

Runners help to lift up neighborhoods with their testimony of forward moving presence. Recognize who is running to transform Park Heights?

Median household income (2010): $ 27,635 (Baltimore City $37,395).

Families in poverty (2010): 25.9 % (Baltimore City 15.2 %).

Persons over 25 with Bachelors degree or higher (2009): 4.5 % (Baltimore City 25 %).

Tobacco stores per 10,000 residents (2009): 20.3 (Baltimore City 21.8).

Small business owners hold neighborhoods together. Ron Billy has been mending clothes (and customers' souls) for forty decades on Spaulding Avenue.

Vacant Buildings per 10,000 housing units (2009): 1202.9 (Baltimore City 567).

Life Expectancy (2010): 66.7 (Baltimore City 71.8)

Teen (15-19) birth rate per 1,000 persons: 89.4 (Baltimore City 65.4).


 Charles Village/Barclay:

It is not common to have public trash bins in the residential neighborhoods. Charles Village has the prettiest ones and tons of them.

Median household income (2010):              $ 33,258 (Baltimore City $ 37,395).

Families in poverty (2010): 10.5 % (Baltimore City 15.2 %).
Persons over 25 with Bachelors degree or higher (2009): 48.5 % (Baltimore 25 %).

Tobacco stores per 10,000 residents (2009): 39 (Baltimore City 21.8).

A fish happily out of water on E. 31st Street, an oasis of peace right off not so tranquil Greenmount.


Vacant Buildings per 10,000 housing units (2009): 434.6 (Baltimore City 567).

Life Expectancy (2010): 72.7 (Baltimore City 71.8)

Teen (15-19) birth rate per 1,000 persons: 13.6 (Baltimore City 65.4).




Northern Baltimore/Guilford/Homeland:

Public space with impeccable green grass is a rare treat in Charm City. Here Sherwood Gardens in Homewood (Guilford)

Median household income (2010): $ 75.248 (Baltimore City $37,395).

Families in poverty (2010): 3.3 % (Baltimore City 15.2 %).

Persons over 25 with Bachelors degree or higher (2009): 72.5% (Baltimore City 25 %).

Tobacco stores per 10,000 residents (2009): 10.9 (Baltimore City 21.8).

I too would want to live forever if I lived in Homeland.

Vacant Buildings per 10,000 housing units (2009): 11.4 (Baltimore City 567).

Life Expectancy (2010): 81.1 (Baltimore City 71.8)

Teen (15-19) birth rate per 1,000 persons: 0.8 (Baltimore City 65.4).



Remember that spring is a way of life at the Visionary Art Museum. Just in the case you were starting to feel depressed about some of the data.

P.S.       I let you draw your conclusions about the data. The chosen numbers here are just a few from the total report in Neighborhood Health Profiles. You may have noted, for instance, that I have not included the ethic backgrounds of the people in the four neighborhoods. What’s your guess about East Baltimore? How about Northern Baltimore/Guilford?

Celebrate the spring and take yourself, even your kids, around the city’s neighborhoods. Match the data with real life and join the good folks who are trying to make the difference in the neighborhoods. Kudos to you if you are one of them already!  Act locally and love where you live, but believe also in the big picture, research, collaboration, and long-term projects such as education. The data concerning Baltimore neighborhoods clearly shows that education and health go hand in hand. Other research evidence, such as a recent report concerning community health rankings and longetivity, prove the same. The dream is that all kids in Baltimore receive the education they need to succeed and be well.

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2 Responses to Spring to Health in All Baltimore’s Neighborhoods

  1. Laura Koskelainen says:

    Hei Maiju, näitä blogitekstejä on hauska lukea. Kiitos niistä. Tästä viimeisimmästä postauksesta käy aika hyvin ilmi, millaisia eroja eri kaupunginosissa voikaan olla. Täällä Viikissä, jossa asumme, erilaiset asumismuodot ovat sekoittuneet: lähekkäin on omistusasuntoja, vuokra-asuntoja (Hoas, kaupunki, VVO…) ja asumisoikeusasuntoja. Alueen rakentaminen alkoi 1998 tienoilla, sitä ennen oli muutama opiskelija-asuntola Talonpojantiellä. Kun oli tehty linjaus siitä, että eri asumismuodot ovat sekaisin, niin se oli helppo tontteja jakaessa toteuttaa. Terveyseroista en osaa sanoa, mutta äänestyskäyttäytymisessä vihreät aina voittavat. Hyvää kevättä!

    • Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner says:

      Hei Laura! Olipa hauska kuulla sinusta! Taalla Baltimoressa asuntoalueiden erikoisongelmana on lahioihin muuttoa. Kaupungissa oli viela 1950-luvulla yli 900 000 asukasta; nyt vain vahn yli 600 000. Tyhjia rivitaloasuntoja ja isoja hylattyja hallintorakennuksia on pilvin pimein. En ole muuten ainoa suomalainen, joka seikkailee Baltimoren kaduilla. Antero Pietila on ollut taalla 30 vuotta Baltimore Sunin toimittajana. Nyt han on elakkeella. Hanen kirjansa No In My Neighborhood kasittelee Baltimoren asuntoalueiden valisia eroja ja niiden syita. Kirjan otsikko kertoo monista ongelmista. Iloista kesaa! Maiju