Study: Detroit unhealthiest big city in America

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Detroit is the unhealthiest city in the nation, according to a study released Monday by the personal finance website WalletHub.

Researchers looked at how America’s 150 largest cities — not including their surrounding suburban areas — compare on health care, food, fitness and green space. They looked at 34 measures from the cost of a doctor’s visit to how many fruits and vegetables people consume to the amount of exercise they get.

Detroit had the lowest composite score, followed by Brownsville, Texas. San Francisco ranked highest, followed by Salt Lake City, Utah. Grand Rapids scored better than the average city, ranking No. 68 in nation.

Researchers looked at measures such as access to medical care and health insurance, availability of healthy food, fruit and vegetable consumption, and access to mental health care.

Detroit health chief Dr. Abdul El-Sayed wasn’t surprised with the results, which he blamed partly on the lack of doctors’ offices in neighborhoods, healthy food stores, transportation and safe places to exercise. Michigan ranked 148th out of 150 cities for the percentage of physically active adults.

“It’s really quite telling,” said El-Sayed, executive director of the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion. “When you think about the causes of poor health, it has to do with the kind of environment in which people work, live and play.

“The numbers you see around access to health care, around the quality of available food options, the ability to achieve regular exercise — those are part and parcel of the particular geography of Detroit,” he added. “There’s a lot of work to be done here.”

WalletHub researchers examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public sources.

WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said the company conducts the survey to help people make educated financial decisions on where to live and work.

“We think that (health) is really a key area that people use when making relocation decisions,” Gonzalez said. “It at least helps you know what you’re getting into, what you might need to prepare for when you’re moving into another city.

Health in Detroit

Detroit scored lowest among 150 cities on WalletHub’s 2017 America’s Healthiest Cities survey, due in part to low rankings on measures such as:

• Cost of medical visit, 86th

• Mental-health counselors per capita, 84th

• Healthy restaurants per capita, 128th

• Dietitians & nutritionists per capita, 99th

• Average cost of fitness-club membership, 80th

• Share of physically active adults, 148th

• Running trails per capita, 136th

• Walking trails per capita, 134th

Source: WalletHub