St. Mary's Co. Commission on Public Health hosts Maryland Secretary of Health, discusses importance of health equity and primary care


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Leonardtown, MD (June 10, 2024) – The Maryland Commission on Public Health held its June monthly meeting on Thursday, June 6, at the Baltimore County Department of Health. As part of its mandate to study the Maryland public health system at state and local levels, the Commission invited Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, Secretary of Health for the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), and Ben Steffen, Executive Director of the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC), to speak on opportunities to improve public health for all Marylanders.

Secretary Herrera Scott discussed her priorities at MDH and its component administrations of Medicaid, public health, developmental disabilities, and behavioral health. Equity and reducing health disparities were highlighted throughout her presentation. Greater alignment between programs and delivery systems, especially for behavioral health, was noted as critical to addressing those inequities.

The Commissioners and the Secretary shared a robust conversation on the importance of primary care in addressing health equity challenges across the state. They highlighted the role of local health departments and community health centers in improving access to health care in their communities. The discussion identified concerns with Maryland’s primary care workforce shortage, including in rural jurisdictions. Secretary Herrera Scott noted how Maryland’s application to the States Advancing All-Payer Health Equity Approaches and Development (AHEAD) total cost of care model submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) by the state health department and the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission includes plans to establish incentives to attract net new primary care providers.

Executive Director Steffen discussed the shared interests of the Maryland Health Care Commission and the Commission on Public Health. He emphasized the MHCC’s work to improve primary care access through existing programs, the proposed AHEAD total cost of care model, and telehealth tools.

The Commission also heard updates on the statutorily required assessment of public health capabilities. Later this summer, academic partners leading the assessment project will provide a detailed overview of the plans to conduct surveys, interview key stakeholders, and hold focus groups. This complements the Commission’s other fact-finding efforts, which include six local health department site visits and regional public listening sessions.

The Commission’s July 11 meeting will be held in Prince George’s County in Upper Marlboro, MD. The meeting will be accessible online and recorded. For more information about the monthly meetings or other opportunities to provide input to the Commission about public health topics, please visit the Commission’s website at

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The Maryland Commission on Public Health was established in 2023 to study and make recommendations to improve Maryland’s public health system. The 16-member body is comprised of local health officers, academic partners, thought leaders, and legislators. The Maryland Department of Health is represented by the Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services, the Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health, and the Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. Many additional leaders and professionals are contributing to the Commission’s five workgroups. The Commission’s goal is to ensure the public health system is designed to help all Marylanders achieve their best health and a lifetime of wellness. Meetings are held monthly and streamed online. For more information, please visit

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