COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Why is Baltimore’s world-renowned health system struggling to keep Freddie Gray’s neighbors – some of the city’s poorest residents – from getting sick?

The question is central to a new investigation by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s student-powered news service, the Capital News Service, in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The ongoing collaborative investigation began during the fall, 2015 semester and involved Merrill College students in a number of classes:

  • Abell Professor Sandy Banisky’s Baltimore Urban Reporting Class;
  • Adjunct Rob Wells’ JOUR328R/JOUR628R Special Topics in News Writing and Reporting; Business Reporting class;
  • The CNS Online Bureau and Bureau Director Sean Mussenden – which developed the In Poor Health website and created the graphics that are being used along with the stories and
  • Students Nate Kresh and Micha Green produced videos and conducted taped interviews in support of the series under the direction of Eleanor Merrill Distinguished Visiting Fellow Tom Bettag:



Professor Banisky said, “What surprised me was that people in West Baltimore, people all over the city, know there’s better health care available and they know they deserve better health care and it makes them really angry to understand that the system is not set up to help them more easily.”

Merrill College students who took part in the investigative series included: Ellie Silverman, Matt Present, Jamie Rapp, Carrie Snurr, Christopher Cox, Jake Bacher, Madeleine Deason, Joey Trull, Rose Creasman Welcome, Jordan Branch, Auburn Mann, Naema Ahmed, Marina di Marzo, Catherine Sheffo, Alex Bayline, Nate Kresh, Rachel Bluth, Rachel Greenwald, Micha Green, Brittany Britto, Lauren Burns, Nora Tarabishi, Iman Smith, Ellie Silverman and Amanda Eisenberg.

For Eisenberg, the stories really emphasized how difficult it can be to get basic health services when you’re poor:

“The problems with health care seem like they have easy solutions,” she said. “Get an annual checkup, don’t eat fried food, try to walk outside. Easy, simple things. As I immersed myself in the community to work on this project, I learned that something as easy as going to your doctor isn’t so easy for many people. You might have to wait hours before you are seen, only to have the doctor brush you off or talk down to you. If you have a minimum-wage job, you can’t take off work to go see a doctor. You might not be able to afford the co-pay or have the means to get to the office; just getting to the doctor might take two hours on three separate buses. I hope our stories shed light on the hurdles Baltimore residents regularly deal with.”

Wide Ranging Coverage

A list of some of the major news outlets covering the “In Poor Health” series.

Kaiser Health News

Baltimore Sun Editorial: “The health care gap” cites the CNS series and gives it an “A” grade.
Washington Post – provided a link to the blood pressure cuff story in its health pages.

The PBS Newshour produced a news story broadcast Monday, Feb. 15 based on a story by Kaiser Heath News reporter Jay Hancock:

WBUR-FM (Boston NPR) conducted a “Here and Now” interview with Kaiser Health’s Jay Hancock on Tuesday, Feb. 16: