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June 23/30, 2015

Unrest in Baltimore: The Role of Public Health

Author Affiliations
  • 1Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 2Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA. 2015;313(24):2425-2426. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.5561

On April 12, 2015, a 25-year-old African American man named Freddie Gray was fatally injured while in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland. His death a week later, on April 19, sparked wide protests about racism, social inequality, and injustice in the United States, coming as it did after the deaths of other African American men around the country. On April 27, the protests in Baltimore led to the destruction of property, fires, and civil unrest.

There are many ways to understand what is happening in Baltimore and, to varying degrees, across the United States. The problems reflect a long-standing dysfunctional relationship between law enforcement and citizens, structural poverty, and the legacy of discrimination in housing and finance policy.1 The problems also deeply engage public health—in addressing immediate needs, in understanding the basis of unrest, and in shaping long-term solutions.

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