Wayne State University in Detroit has announced an investment in the creation of an Urban Children’s Health Collaborative (UCHC), a community-based, multi-mission initiative with a focus on urban child and lifespan development.
“The vision is for a healthier future for metropolitan Detroit’s children and families through holistic, community-based primary and specialty pediatric care, medical education and training, and community- and population-based research,” says Dr. Herman Gray, chair of WSU’s department of pediatrics.
Gray will develop the UCHC under the leadership of M. Roy Wilson, president of WSU, and Dr. Jack D. Sobel, dean of the School of Medicine. Gray has talked with the chair of the Henry Ford Medical Group department of pediatrics about a potential partnership.
Detroit has the largest big-city poverty rate in the country for children ages 5 and younger, Gray says.
“Social determinants of health – which are largely, but not exclusively, rooted in poverty and racism – are known to increase the risk of poor health outcomes, not only in children, but also in adults,” says Gray. “Social determinants of health include access to quality housing, food insecurity, quality education, transportation, unemployment, and accessible health care.
“These complex, integrated, and overlapping issues are responsible for most health inequities, and we intend to tackle them.”
The first phase of the UCHC will include the launch of Wayne Pediatrics, an academic practice that will be home to the WSU department of pediatrics faculty physicians and serve as the School of Medicine’s clinical service group for pediatrics. Ambulatory practice sites are under evaluation, and so is a central clinical and administrative site.
Wayne Pediatrics aims to reframe how children and families receive care and services by working with them as well as collaborating with academic and community colleagues. The collaboration will address barriers such as transportation, food insecurity, and housing.
The creation of the UCHC will include a planning process to engage community stakeholders including health systems, public health agencies, neighborhood organization, human service organizations, and policymakers.
“All children in Detroit should have an equal opportunity to be healthy, ready to learn, and to achieve their full potential,” says Wilson. “A child’s ZIP code should not be the determining factor for future health. Pediatricians are, first and foremost, child advocates. This new initiative will enable Wayne Pediatrics faculty physicians to be more effective advocates and will help many more children live up to their fullest potential. The UCHC, working in collaboration with Detroit’s myriad child and family-focused organizations, will ultimately improve the lives of children and families in our community and beyond.”
WSU medical students and residents will work with and see children in non-hospital settings, therefore gathering additional insight into challenges faced by families. Undergraduate and graduate students in education, psychology, public health, social work, nursing, and other fields will also work with the families.
Research initiatives will focus on improving the public and economic health of urban and underserved populations.
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year, WSU will launch a campus-wide $500,000 competition in developmental grant funding as part of the first phase of UCHC. The program will aim to catalyze and enhance collaboration across the university community.
“I am confident that UCHC and Wayne Pediatrics will emerge as a national leader in further clarifying, identifying, and understanding childhood and adolescent pre-disposing conditions to adult diseases, creating positive changes in health and well-being,” says Gray.