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PHMC’s Public Health Mayoral Forum Highlights Key Public Health Issues in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (April 7, 2023) Seven mayoral candidates addressed critical public health issues in front of more than 200 people at Public Health Management Corporation’s (PHMC) Public Health in Philadelphia: A 2023 Mayoral Forum, held Tuesday at PHMC’s headquarters in Philadelphia.

Former Philadelphia City Council members; Allan Domb, Derek Green, Helen Gym, David Oh; Warren Bloom; Jeff Brown; and former City Controller of Philadelphia Rebecca Rhynhart participated. Maiken Scott, WHYY host and producer of The Pulse, moderated the event.

As PHMC joins institutions across the country to celebrate National Public Health Week, the candidates addressed three key public health issues facing Philadelphians: gun violence, drug and substance use, and behavioral health. These issues contribute to the safety and security of Philadelphia citizens and neighborhoods. As America’s poorest big city, these issues are all underscored by poverty. All of this poses a significant challenge and opportunity for the candidates in this election.

“As the region’s Public Health Institute and leader in public health, PHMC was honored to convene Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates in a discussion on critical public health topics impacting our city and communities,” said Michael K. Pearson, PHMC Executive Board Member and past Board Chair. “May and October 2023 are critical moments in Philadelphia’s electoral history, thought leaders from multiple sectors must align to create impactful public health dialogue with the candidates vying to be the next mayor. We look forward to hear what they’ve learned through our mayoral forum and how they resolve to build a sustainable continuum of care to address the behavioral and mental health challenges in our city.”

Candidates discussed how public health is a critical issue encompassing the election, from poverty to social determinants of health and substance use and gun violence. Candidates acknowledged the depth of public health and social service subject matter expertise from leading universities, law firms, nonprofits, health care institutions, and public health advocates in the room, expressing the need to listen and learn to help inform their policies.

The key issues discussion from the forum included:

Gun Violence:
Gun violence is a public health crisis that affects everyone. Especially in Greater Philadelphia, this epidemic disproportionately harms communities of color and those experiencing poverty, housing insecurity and a lack of access to health care. In Philadelphia, gun violence is concentrated in a handful of city blocks where the poverty rate and rate of vacant housing is higher than the city’s average. In 2021, the year the city set a record for overall homicides, the number of juvenile homicide victims was more than three times that of juveniles killed in 2015.

To hear how the candidates addressed gun violence challenges, please click here to view their responses, starting at 6:25 in the video.

Drug and Substance Use:
The substance use epidemic affects a growing number of families in Philadelphia, with more individuals dying annually from overdoses than from shootings. In 2021, Philadelphia reported the highest number of unintentional overdose deaths on record: 1,276, a 5% increase from 2020. Of those, 82% involved opioids.

To hear how the candidates addressed drug and substance use challenges, please click here to view their responses, starting at 25:50 in the video.

Behavioral Health:
Community mental health programs and secure, affordable housing are critical for improving mental, social, and emotional well-being in children and families. Equally important is coordinating care across agencies, departments, and organizations. Access to mental and behavioral health services is necessary for building safe, healthy communities. Those with untreated severe mental illness are involved in at least one in four, and as many as half of all fatal police shootings nationwide.

To hear how the candidates addressed behavioral health challenges, please click here to view their responses, starting at 46:00 in the video.


About PHMC
Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) is a nonprofit public health institute that creates and sustains healthier communities. PHMC uses best practices to improve community health through direct service, partnership, innovation, policy, research, technical assistance and a prepared workforce. PHMC has served the region since 1972. For more information on PHMC, visit