From Rescue to Recovery: How Detroit is Strategizing to Solve for SDoH



Restrictions are being lifted, funds are being allocated, and services are being rendered. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan and other government initiatives, states, cities, counties, towns, health plans, providers, community organizations, and individuals are receiving federal funding to aid in the post-pandemic recovery.

But where is the money being spent? And how will our communities rebuild?

Looking to Detroit, we can learn a critical lesson in the power of community restoration. The city may have a complicated fiscal history, but it’s vibrant and close-knit community knows firsthand how to endure hardship and how to recover by taking collaborative action. Detroit’s community approach, as we cover below, is reminding us that together, with the right funding, resources, and expertise, we can properly address the needs of a community and the individuals who live, work, and play in that community.

Maximizing cross-sector collaboration and encourages community participation

The city is set to receive $826 million in federal funding, which isn’t surprising considering Detroiters were hit disproportionately harder by the COVID-19 pandemic compared to surrounding cities and states, but what is surprising is that Mayor Mike Duggan is turning to the community to get feedback on how to spend more than half of it by hosting 25 town hall meetings.

He has already outlined his top priorities, which include fighting intergenerational poverty and restoring neighborhoods, but these lofty goals require deliberate, sustainable actions and, most importantly, advice from the Detroiters who would benefit most from these investments.

Asking for community input on community funding isn’t just a matter of respect, but it’s a wise decision-making strategy. Community members are closest to the issues, many of them living in neighborhoods where the disparities exist and they can give firsthand knowledge on what’s happening and what’s needed most.

When readers were asked by Detour Detroit, a local newsletter, where they'd like to see the money go, reader Tovonne Lucas answered, “Homeless shelters. Just today, I saw two different families with homeless signs and their children were with them.”

Another reader, Doris Walker, recommended supporting social service agencies and caseworkers. “Those people are a lifeline to some of us and I would love to see them flourish,” she says. “If we resource them, we resource the community.”

Creating impactful change together

We are reminded in Detroit Future City’s The State of Economic Equity in Detroit report that more than 77 percent of Detroit residents are Black, 31 percent are living below the poverty line, 61 percent of those who rent are housing cost-burdened, and life expectancy rates are five years younger than those of surrounding cities.

“For our communities to truly thrive, they need access to healthy food and clean water, safe and vibrant neighborhoods, gainful employment, affordable housing and transportation... When any of these fails, the whole outcome can fail,” says Wright L. Lassiter III, President and CEO of Henry Ford Health System, in the report’s forward.

In addition to unemployment assistance, lowered health insurance premiums, and child care assistance, the federal funding could provide low-income Detroiters with much-need social services such as higher quality educational resources and safe and affordable housing options, which would make a life-changing difference.

While funding is often determined by high-level stakeholders, the American Rescue Plan is offering a new blueprint for decision-making. Rather than relying on historical knowledge and high-level expertise, key stakeholders would be wise to widen their perspective, as Detroit has, and look to the individuals who are working in the community, on a ground level, to solve SDoH and other key issues.

Preparing for prosperity

By working together, across sectors, Detroit reminds the nation that equity can be achieved if specific actions are taken and underlying problems are promptly recognized and addressed. 

“We must act on behalf of every life we serve – by acknowledging our collective failures, embracing the fight for justice and equity for all, and partnering to earnestly and courageously lift up our communities. If we fail to do this, we dare not call ourselves successful stewards of health and wellness," says Lassiter III, on behalf of the Henry Ford Health System and in a call to action to other community leaders.

At Healthify, we believe no one’s health should be hindered by their need. When we work together, we can improve health equity and outcomes by identifying social needs, finding social services, and coordinating successfully. It’s through the development of cross-sector, multi-stakeholder partnerships that we believe long-lasting changes can be made and community health can be improved. 

Learn more about our Michigan network and how we’re supporting the Detroit community here. You can also learn how we’re narrowing health equity gaps by reading our Funding Community-Based Efforts to Address the SDoH brief.

Topics: public health housing insecurity healthcare policy population health community-based organizations care coordination funding SDoH partnerships ohio social determinants of health sdoh michigan health equity

Related posts