There are many children in Wayne County who have relatively easy access to quality healthcare and strong health status indicators. One reason is the State of Michigan efforts at providing health insurance for all children have been quite effective: According to the Census Bureau, only 6 percent of all Michigan children are not covered by health insurance. And there are local efforts to lower that percentage even more. But across the county, and intensified in some areas, health status of many other children and teenagers is less than optimal due to a variety of social and economic issues.
Including Detroit, almost 25% of the residents of Wayne County are under the age of 18 years old. 38% of those children live in areas defined as concentrated poverty. In Detroit alone the percentage is a staggering 67%. That’s approximately 180,000 lives with increased health risk. Approximately 40,000 of them outside of the city limits.
Wayne County children are at risk for the same health concerns that occur across the nation such as influenza, childhood illnesses such as chickenpox and the measles, asthma and other similar diseases. Many of the health concerns arise due to poor health behaviors for children and teens: exercise, childhood obesity, smoking and tobacco use, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and bullying.
Despite the availability of insurance, the health risk is high due to a combination of many problems including education, social demographics, local government structure and support, accessibility to primary care, transportation and many additional concerns. Inadequate access to health care means that youngsters do not receive regular checkups, immunizations, treatment, and early intervention for health or development problems. Adequate access can help prevent developmental delays and other long-term effects of undetected or untreated health and development problems.
An example of an under-utilized available service is the Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) which covers preventive health care focused on developmental assessment and identifying health problems. Unfortunately, Michigan has a screening rate less than 51 percent; Federal guidelines are set at 80 percent.
Finally, for far too many years, the Detroit area continues to have an unacceptably high infant mortality rate- close to 13%, although there has been some slight improvement recently.
Clearly, Wayne County has many areas to improve as it relates to childhood health concerns. To address these issues and to make substantial improvement in health status of our youth, it takes a region-wide, integrated approach to addressing these needs. The healthcare system can and should play an important part in addressing these risks, but involvement from both the public and private sectors are paramount to impact this large and almost overwhelming problem.
The GCH Heritage Foundation is interested in funding unique and creative programs that are structured by integrating concerned parties, to address some of the unique health status concerns for the youth and are in Western Wayne County. The programs should focus on an identified group that would allow for monitoring of the impact in the project. Preference would go to projects that have some clinical aspect to it, as well as social service interventions.