SUBURBAN HEALTH: Facing ‘Urban’ Problems
Social and health problems once thought to be confined to urban areas are proliferating in the suburbs, according to a report released yesterday by the nonprofit National Public Health and Hospital Institute, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. Researchers analyzed data from 100 of the nation's largest cities, their counties and their larger metropolitan areas for the years 1980 to 1996. The study found that among other indicators, teenage pregnancy in urban areas from 1985 to 1995 in the Northeast decreased by 7% while the surrounding suburbs saw a 3% increase. During the same period, those urban areas had a slightly lower increase in low-birth weight babies, 11%, than the 13% in the surrounding suburbs. Health care for the poor is becoming an increasing problem for the suburbs, where the number of publicly funded hospitals declined 43% between 1990 and 1996. Author Dennis Andrulis notes, "Not everyone moving to the suburbs is rich. Who's going to furnish the safety net for the poor in the suburbs?"
In an effort to alleviate some of the problems now facing suburbia, the report recommends that public officials "avoid city-suburban turf battles and take a regional approach to solving problems." Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Peter Beilenson concurs. He says that the "counties might want to join with us on some of our efforts. We've had a lot of dramatic drops in the last several years, when the counties have had the opposite" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 7/22).