Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health is Making a Difference – from Baltimore to Bangladesh

February 1995 / Abell Reports / Health and Human Services

Dean Alfred Sommer says, “We want to add more years, and more to the quality of those years, that an individual and a society can enjoy. The world must learn that prevention is cheaper than the cure.”

When in March of 1994 the results of a Business Week survey placed the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health first in the nation among public health and hygiene schools (Harvard placed second), the news drew a yawn in Balti­more. And when, a few days earlier, the School of Hygiene was named to lead a $15,000,000 partnership of mental health services in East Balti­more, the media reported that the partnership was between the network of services and “Johns Hopkins Uni­versity.” In the habit of Baltimoreans, this same media didn’t bother to sin­gle out the school from the entire uni­versity, or they got the school and the university mixed up.

Whatever, the school’s adminis­tration will tell you that the school may be renowned in the world but in Baltimore it gets no respect. That is so, first, they believe, because the school finds itself one of many in the university’s large family of schools and facilities; and second, because of what the school does.

It focuses on disciplines that lead to prevention of sickness. “Prevention” does not enjoy a dramatic pres­ence as does, say, primary care. But the need for the primary-care physi­cian’s skills exists only where preven­tion has not yet done its work. The school, then, will have achieved its goal when the physician has no patients. But progress in the abstract does not command the immediate attention of the Baltimore community — neither leadership nor rank and file. Searching for solutions today, they cannot wait for a vague tomor­row. The problems are now, in the streets, in the houses, within the fami­lies of Baltimore. The school is mindful that the community wants to know: what has the school done for it lately?

Which, by any measure, is a lot.