Two months on the job, Baltimore's new health commissioner is discussing her vision for a healthier city.
Dr. Letitia Dzirasa sat down with 11 News Wednesday afternoon to talk about the biggest issues her department faces. Dzirasa was appointed to the position in March.
Dzirasa said she wants to see change in three areas in particular plaguing the city.
"Certainly, there are things that we can do better, just as any agency has things they can improve upon, but I think we are doing a pretty good job of serving the residents of the city," Dzirasa said.
Dzirasa said there are three main challenges facing the city, starting with access to healthy foods. She and city leaders announced Wednesday this summer's SNAP benefit will give recipients an additional $30 a month for food.
"Not having access to healthy food is a big challenge because that's such a big part of disease prevention," Dzirasa said.
Drug addiction is another big challenge. In 2017, Baltimore saw 761 drug- and alcohol-related intoxication deaths.
Dzirasa said crime and violence is the third big challenge.
"Exposure to violence, being victims of violence, all of that trauma we know has long-term effects on health," Dzirasa said.
But Dzirasa is optimistic. She has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, a doctorate from Meharry Medical College and she completed her residency at Johns Hopkins. She hopes her background managing a healthcare IT portfolio for a tech company will help her bring new solutions for the city.
"I think government falls behind industry of utilization of tech to present things to the public and understand the data that we have access to -- data that, if we really have access to it, we can use it to change how we do programming and make it much more effective," Dzirasa said.
As the health commissioner, Dzirasa's new role is much more political. She said she'll be doing a lot of advocacy work with legislative priorities aimed at improving health and secure funds for Baltimore.
Dzirasa is a Prince George's County native. She has a 2-year-old child and a 17-year-old stepson.