Wayne Co. black baby deaths 3 times higher than whites

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Infant mortality among African-Americans in Wayne County is three times higher than it is among their white neighbors, according to data released Tuesday at the inaugural Mayor’s Summit on Health Equity in Detroit.

Led by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne Sate President M. Roy Wilson, the summit focused on how social inequities such as poverty, crime and blight affect the health of Detroit residents and how best to improve public health.

“There is a tie between health and revitalization of any city,” Wilson told the gathering of about 100 that included researchers, public health workers, foundations and community groups. “Together ... we want to come away with something that’s tangible, and we can build on. This is about coming up with action plans.”

Duggan, who was the Detroit Medical Center chief executive before becoming mayor of Detroit, said his administration has pushed back against corporations seeking permits for projects that are unhealthy for the environment.

Duggan explained that Detroit pays more to demolish houses because the city imports clean fill dirt from Brighton and Port Huron instead of using contaminated soil from elsewhere in Detroit.

“It was worth the extra $2,000 to have our children live in a (healthier) neighborhood,” the first-term mayor said, noting Detroit also pays extra to remove and encapsulate asbestos from homes the city demolishes.

Abdul M. El-Sayed, executive director of public health in Detroit, unveiled several statistics about the health of Detroit residents.

“When it comes to health outcomes, we perform less well than other low-income cities, like Baltimore,” El-Sayed said. “Decisions over several decades have shaped the context in which we see public health in the city of Detroit.”

A new report, called “A Data Snapshot on Health in Detroit 2016,” was unveiled at the summit and includes data on preterm births, diet and exercise, lead exposure and other health issues.

The event brought federal and state officials, community leaders and health advocates together with Detroit public health officials and Wayne State University researchers to brainstorm ways to improve the health of Detroit residents.

Keynote speakers were Dr. Nadine Gracia, deputy assistant secretary for minority health and the director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Dwayne C. Proctor, a senior adviser and director with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.