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Improving Detroiters' health is focus of Wayne State summit

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News
Dr. M. Roy Wilson, right, President, Wayne St. University, answers a question from Moderator Rip Rapson, left, President and CEO of The Kresge Foundation during the summit.

Detroit — Residents of Wayne County are the unhealthiest of Michigan's 83 counties, according to a ranking by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Bridging that disparity was the target of a Wednesday summit at Wayne State University.

Participants suggested ways to promote healthy eating, behaviors and environments. But the focus was on disparities affecting Detroit’s population, including asthma, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

The university brought together leaders of corporations, health care systems, community organizations, foundations, policymakers and academics.

Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson said the university has more work to do.

“We’re not training our health-care providers in the most appropriate way,” he said. “Almost 90 percent of cases are not hospital-based, but out in the communities — and we need to be doing a much better job of that.”

Dan Gilbert, left,  answers a question from moderator Rip Rapson, center. Other panelists are (from left) Dr. John Popovich, Dr. M. Roy Wilson and John Rakolta Jr.  Panelists discussed health equity during a summit at Wane State University on  November 7, 2018.

Medicine is changing, he said, and changes must be made in the way health-care providers are trained — not the way it was done 20 or 30 years ago.

“Research is important," he said, "but we must translate research into results that will positively impact the community.”

He emphasized the importance of having foundations and business leaders become partners in the effort.

Some participants drew correlations between healthy communities and Detroit's revitalization. Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, extolled the virtues of the city’s riverfront in terms of getting out and moving around in the fresh air.

“Now, I had nothing to do with the riverfront, but it is the most underutilized story about Detroit,” he said. “It is the most amazing thing that happens here. We have to promote it more.”

Dr. John Popovich, emeritus president and CEO of Henry Ford Hospital, said that in the end, it comes down to common sense: “Eat better, use less salt, stay active, see your doctor, know your numbers and manage stress.”