Community | Events

Innovative Ways to Address Detroit’s Health Disparities

Healthcare is a global issue that can draw people apart or bring them together. Here in Detroit and the metro area there are institutes that teach, train and employee our communities next generation of doctors, physicians assistants, nurses and other health care workers. These individuals learn how to diagnosis a patient, prescribe a method of treatment and create relationships with those who come in and out of their exam rooms on a daily basis.

That all sounds ‘simple’ enough but the truth is that each patient is different. What challenges face those living in Detroit in regards to access to healthcare? How can health care providers better understand the communities they are serving in Detroit? How does one overcome issues like lake of transportation and literacy gaps as they relate to access health care? The year three, Challenge Detroit fellows recently tried to tackle a few of these questions.

The fellows had the opportunity to learn from, ideate with a Health Disparities Coalition, a working group designed with two major health systems (Beaumont Health System – Family Medicine and Henry Ford Health System – Institute of Multicultural Medicine), two local medical schools (Wayne State University School of Medicine and Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine) and a Detroit non-profit (Healthy Detroit). Individuals from each of these organizations worked with Challenge Detroit fellows to better understand challenges and opportunities for improvement in five different segments, mental health, geriatrics, wellness, infant mortality and primary care versus specialty care.

Instead of creating ideas that addressed the issues from the patient side this project sought to help better educate medical students and medical residents about the health disparities that are common in Detroit and the metro area. When considering these health disparities it is imperative to remember that mothers may not have access to prenatal care, those struggling with their metal health may not know any this wrong until it is too late and elderly citizens may not be able to afford transportation. These are all real issues facing Detroit citizens.

Here are just a few examples of the innovative solutions that the fellows suggested. For elderly patients medication ID cards would be created that outline what medications they need take when, with simple and easy to understand instructions. To help mothers and future mothers care for their babies the fellows proposed a network of health care professionals becoming more directly involved in group meetings among expectant mothers, meeting them where they are. This entails a space where group therapy, education sessions and WIC partners will convene to provide the best support for expectant mothers in Detroit.  Finally, those fellows working on the topic of wellness proposed a series of roundtables for physicians to share insights with students; utilizing a storytelling platform for medical professionals; handing out case studies for students to study; and completing day-in-the-life empathy activities.

The Health Disparities Coalition and Challenge Detroit began the work to help even the playing field. In five short weeks fellows brought innovated cross-sector solutions to the experts and in turn have begun to change how doctors are educated. The fellows have truly contributed new solutions to medical education curricula that truly takes into account the marginalized and underrepresented.