Detroit research in the news

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Make Your Date Detroit delivers results

Detroit has one of the worst (highest) preterm birth and infant mortality rates in the country, equal to that of some third world countries. With a preterm birth rate of 14.5 percent, Detroit earned an “F” among major U.S. cities for premature births according to the 2018 Premature Birth Report Card from the March of Dimes, the nation’s leading maternal and infant health nonprofit organization. Research has shown that disparities such as racial inequity, poverty, stress, food insecurity, lack of education, and limited access to transportation or health care can contribute to poor health outcomes for mothers and babies. In efforts to quell this epidemic, the city of Detroit has welcomed several initiatives geared towards reducing the city’s infant mortality rate. One such initiative is the Make Your Date Detroit program. Make Your Date Detroit is a Wayne State University organization that is fighting to turn the tide against premature births in Detroit. “African American infants are at a 50 percent greater risk of preterm birth compared to white infants. As a result, African American infants are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants,” says Marisa Rodriquez, director of strategic operations of the Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University. “African American women are three to four times more likely to die in pregnancy than white mothers. Hispanic mothers and infants are also at greater risk when compared to white women. There are tests and treatments that exist to reduce preterm birth, but many pregnant women do not have access to them. Our program works to make these lifesaving approaches available. What our program and others provide is important in the fight to reduce the very substantial racial and ethnic health disparities that are seen in pregnancy.” Rodriquez says that the Make Your Date program has already begun saving infant lives in a short period. “Make Your Date has been so successful that participating mothers are 37 percent less likely to deliver at under 32 weeks and 28 percent are less likely to deliver at under 34 weeks,” she said. “In a city with such high rates of preterm birth and infant mortality, these results are remarkable. We are very proud that women are delivering healthy babies as a result of this program.”  
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Using Detroiters' ZIP codes to predict stroke risk

Kim Trent, Wayne State University Board of Governors chair, wrote a piece about stroke risk and current research involving our region. “Wayne State University researcher and Detroit Medical Center emergency room doctor Phillip Levy told policymakers attending the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference he hopes data he gleaned from emergency room visits to the Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Hospital can be used to inform smarter approaches to the cardiovascular risks facing Detroiters. A typical resident of the 48236 ZIP code in Grosse Pointe can expect to live to age 82. But a person who lives less than 10 miles away in Detroit’s 48201 ZIP code has a life expectancy of only 69 years. Michigan ranks 42nd out of the 50 states in cardiovascular health, with 298 stroke or heart disease related deaths per 100,000 residents each year. The national average is 257 cardiovascular-related deaths per 100,000 residents. Levy is optimistic that gathering information like this on a data platform will allow researchers, public health experts, and physicians to explore links between health outcomes and factors such as employment, environment, race, income and education. Levy thinks data platforms like the one he touted on Mackinac Island may help us better understand the role that factors like racism play in the development of hypertension and other medical conditions. “Every time I put those maps up,  I hear that gasp in the audience and  people are just astonished that that’s such a problem,” said the physician. “You want to take it to another level," he says. “You have all the things that an individual can do, but [the question is] how can we from a policy or community health perspective change some of the structural things that are involved?”
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Exhibit looks at history of Detroit's Corktown neighborhood

A new exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum takes visitors through 150 years of life in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. Called “The Journey to Now ,” the exhibit opened this month and is scheduled to run through July 7. The exhibit is hosted by the nonprofit organization Corktown Experience in conjunction with Wayne State University’s Anthropology Museum. It tells the story of the people who lived in the Workers’ Row House in Corktown and of the workers who helped build Detroit into an industrial and automotive powerhouse. This exhibit kicks off an effort by Corktown Experience to turn the Workers’ Row House and the surrounding property into a community hub and cultural center.
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Will Michigan 3rd-grade reading law hurt poor?

Children from low-income and minority families will be more likely to flunk than wealthier white classmates with similarly low test scores under Michigan’s third-grade reading law, if the experience of Florida is repeated here. Research and Northwestern University found that Florida third-graders with similarly low reading scores were held back at different rates, depending on the socioeconomic status of their families. While the long-term impact of holding children back a grade is mixed, the socioeconomic and racial disparity found in Florida should be a flashing yellow caution light for Michigan, said Sarah Lenhoff, assistant professor of education at Wayne State University. “This study is an important warning for Michigan lawmakers and educators as our state implements this new law,” Lenhoff said. “If children are given differential opportunities to use exemptions from retention, this policy could lead to greater inequity in educational opportunity between low-income children and their wealthier peers.”
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Opinion: Schools and researchers must collaborate to help Detroit students

Wayne State University College of Education professors Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, Ben Pogodzinski and Erica Edwards wrote an opinion piece exploring approaches to improving lives of Detroit students, focusing on issues of student enrollment and attendance. “Researching the challenges most cited by school leaders and community advocates, we found that roughly a quarter of students who lived in Detroit in the 2017-18 school year attended a school in the suburbs, taking their talents and state school funding out of the city’s schools. We also found that nearly one-fifth of Detroit students switched schools between school years, which can negatively impact achievement and destabilize the schools they left. Additionally, over half of the students who attended school in Detroit missed 10 percent or more of the year, contributing to lower academic achievement and greatly increasing their risk of high school dropout. Findings like these can play a pivotal role in educational policy decision-making, but the policymakers and advocates who could benefit from such information rarely have access to the journals where academics like us typically publish our research…Our research joins a growing body of scholarship that suggests that a collaborative approach to school improvement, with community, school, city, and university partners, could help overcome challenges facing Detroit schools.
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Researchers at Detroit’s Wayne State Find Link Between Zika Virus, Glaucoma

Researchers in Wayne State University’s department of ophthalmology, visual, and anatomical sciences have discovered in experimental models that the Zika virus can cause glaucoma. The study was published in mSphere, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Microbiology. Zika virus, or ZIKV poses challenges in reproductive health and has been shown to cause neurological disorders, primarily microcephaly, or the abnormal shrinking of the head circumference. Several clinical studies have also linked ZIKV to ocular deformities. “The eye is protected from systemic infection due the presence of a protective barrier called the blood retinal barrier,” says Ashok Kumar, associate professor and lead author of the study. “Previous studies from our laboratory have shown that ZIKV has the ability to infect and replicate in cells making the blood retinal barrier, hence potentially allowing the entry of ZIKV into the eye."
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Are controversial programs in Detroit actually reducing crime?

Detroit’s Project Green Light now has 500 businesses signed up around the city. Mayor Mike Duggan, Police Chief James Craig and other officials say there’s no question the program is helping businesses keep crime away. But is that backed up by data? A new study from researchers at Wayne State University’s Department of Criminal Justice shows blight demolition in Detroit neighborhoods has reduced crime. Charles Klahm and Matthew Larson are the Wayne State researchers who conducted the study. They discussed their findings on Detroit Today.
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Michigan health fund grants $500,000 for LGBT senior support

Corktown Health Center got $500,000 from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to offer care and support for older LGBT adults. The Detroit health center is the first focused on LGBT health in Michigan, according to its website. The two-year grant will fund its Silver Rainbow Health Initiative, according to a news release. The program will be a collaborative effort between Corktown Health, SAGE Metro Detroit and the Wayne State University School of Medicine. SAGE Metro Detroit grew out of the LGBT Older Adult Coalition. It works to build awareness and change for elderly members of the LGBT community. The Corktown Health Center opened in 2017 in a renovated 24,000-square-foot facility at 1726 Howard St., aiming to alleviate a lack of LGBT-focused care in the area. It partnered with Wayne State University and the Wayne State University Physician Group late that year to increase its capacity and expand its resources. The health center's services include primary care, health insurance help, behavioral health, and comprehensive HIV care and treatment. Pharmacy services are coming soon, according to its website.
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Lead levels drop in Michigan kids after Flint spike. But so does testing.

“Lead is still in all these older homes in Michigan, and until it is substantially abated or these homes are removed from the housing stock, there is still a hazard to kids,” said Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Housing. In Detroit, at least 10 percent of kids in eight of 27 city ZIP Codes tested positive for elevated lead levels. Many are in some of the city’s oldest and most blighted neighborhoods, such as the Virginia Park neighborhood in the city’s 48206 ZIP Code, where 19 percent of tested children had elevated levels last year. Thompson has led efforts to test children in that Detroit ZIP Code and another, 48214, where 16 percent of children had elevated lead levels last year. He said 85 percent of the 1,000 homes he’s tested in that neighborhood were positive for lead. It’s one of several initiatives in cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids, but remediation efforts are expensive.
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Expert views on Michigan's recreational marijuana proposal

At the event hosted by the Wayne State University College of Pharmacy and Health Studies, Christine Rabinak, an associate professor of pharmacy practice at the college, detailed the history of marijuana in the U.S. and the effects and characteristics of different strains. Randall Commissaris, an associate professor at Wayne State, has studied the effects of marijuana on driving ability. He told the audience Tuesday that a "yes" vote on Prop 1 will make Michigan either the ninth or tenth state to legalize recreational pot.
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Police killings of 3 black men left a mark on Detroit’s history

Jeffrey Horner, senior lecturer of Urban Studies, wrote an article for The Conversation about the history of segregation in Detroit. He wrote: “Police routinely used violent force against blacks in the U.S. before the 1940s, primarily as a means of preserving segregation in cities. It became a last line of defense for segregationists after the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948 weakened the ability of property owners to refuse to sell to people of color. 
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Making a model of Math Corps

Math Corps, founded in 1991, is a combined academic and mentoring program for Detroit public school students in grades 6-12. It features a summer camp, year-round Saturday programs, and enrichment courses for elementary school children. In addition to math, it also focuses on life skills, said Executive Director Steven Kahn. WSU Math Corps, which is attracting national and international attention, is spinning off from the university as it begins to expand to new sites. The program is heading into DPS middle schools in the coming academic year through a new pilot with the district, other states with a $3 million National Sciences Foundation grant and possibly the West African countries of Ghana and Nigeria, which have been benchmarking it. It's a story not often told: a Detroit nonprofit exporting an impactful program. But the program hasn't spread in Detroit beyond the approximately 3,000 students who've come through over its 26-year-history.
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$1.54 million NIH grant to improve cardiac function in heart failure

With the help of a $1.54 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, a research team from Wayne State University will establish a targeted approach to sustain cardiac function during an energetic crisis and heart failure. Led by Jian-Ping Jin, M.D., Ph.D., professor and William D. Traitel Endowed Chair of Physiology in the School of Medicine at Wayne State, the research team has focused on the area of protein structure-function relationships, particularly on protein engineering to improve muscle and heart functions.