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Winter 2012

Don't Move That Dial

Baltimore listeners are tuning in to better health.

Date: February 1, 2012

Don't Move That Dial
In the studio: Karen L. Swartz (left) talks about holiday depression and losing a loved one to violence with Brian Gibbs, Wenda Royster, and Malcolm Brock.

Hopkins physicians have found an effective way to reach underserved minorities with information on health and wellness—the radio airwaves.

The weekly radio show Breaking It Down: Our Health, Our Way, which debuted in fall 2010, is a live, 60-minute broadcast featuring Q&As with Johns Hopkins Medicine experts, host Wenda Royster, and listeners who call in.

“We’re bursting at the seams with people who are the world’s leaders on so many diseases, and yet within a mile radius of the hospital you have so many people in dire need of this information,” says Malcolm Brock, chief medical consultant for the radio program and thoracic surgeon at Hopkins Hospital.

Each month, the show addresses a particular health topic through a series of episodes that highlight different aspects of the issue. A recent series on nutrition featured registered dietitians, a weight loss physician, a public health expert, and Baltimore’s food policy director. The guests shared their expertise on such topics as healthy eating habits, food, and obesity.

“This is a way we can go and sit in the living room or at the kitchen table with any of our listeners and just have a conversation about their health,” says Brian Gibbs, associate dean for diversity and cultural competence at the School of Medicine.

Talking with clinicians outside of hurried office appointments helps strengthen the relationship between health care providers and their patients, says Royster, an experienced Baltimore broadcast journalist. “You really get to know the person’s soul because of their voice,” she says. “You get to know them and trust them.” Most importantly, Royster says the program gives people hope. “The [topics] are approached in such a way that anyone can understand [them] and what they can do, moving forward.”

Since the first episode aired in September 2010, listenership has climbed to more than 25,000 people each week, including online listeners, Gibbs says. While most tuning in are local, some have dialed in from as far away as Mississippi, according to Gibbs. Health care professionals throughout the country and from such remote places as Afghanistan have inquired about the program in their search for similar solutions to address disparities in health education. Gibbs hopes the show will someday become syndicated.

School of Medicine leaders are also laying the groundwork for a local Spanish radio or cable TV health program, which they hope to launch in the spring. 

Shannon Swiger

Breaking It Down: Our Health, Our Way airs each Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon on WOLB 1010.

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