Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the news

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Detroit's infant mortality rate made a historic drop. Here's why

Detroit's infant mortality rate — once highest in the nation, exceeding many Third World countries — achieved a historic drop in 2019, helping Michigan achieve its lowest infant mortality rate in more than 100 years, according to state health officials. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan noted programs, such as Make Your Date, a collaboration between the city and Wayne State University, and prenatal programs run by Henry Ford Health Center and Ascension St. John Hospital as well as community organizations such as the Black Mothers Breast Feeding Association. Infant mortality is considered the death of an infant before reaching the age of 1. Causes of infant mortality included birth defects, preterm or premature birth, maternal pregnancy complications, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and injuries like suffocation. The greatest cause of infant mortality is premature birth, said Dr. Sonia Hassan, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine who co-founded Wayne State University's Make Your Date program with Duggan in 2014. "It's amazing and great news," said Hassan of Detroit's reduction in infant mortality. "The reduction was for 2018 to 2019, but for years before that, there was a real big focus in the city by many groups on infant mortality — and it really made a difference. "Our program had high volume enrollment and others did too during that time. We were able to partner with the city on the transportation piece. So we were able to get a lot of people to services that they needed." Make Your Date, Henry Ford Health System, Ascension Health, the March of Dimes and numerous other partners focused on moving the needle, she said. "All of those people collectively as a group really were focused on infant mortality," she said. 
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For thousands of Michigan students, the barriers to getting to school are steep

Of the 50,000 students who attend Detroit Public Schools, more than 29,000 counted as chronically absent — missing 10% or more days in a school year — in the 2019-2020 school year. Statewide, nearly 300,000 students counted as chronically absent that year, according to state data. A new report from Wayne State University's College of Education finds the reasons for chronic absences for Detroit students are complicated. The report illustrates the lengths parents often have to go to get their child to school, in the face of unreliable transportation options and precarious financial circumstances. "We have the highest chronic absence in the country of any large city by a lot," Sarah Lenhoff, a Wayne State researcher and professor, said. The findings from the study mirror what other education leaders around the state have anecdotally noticed about chronically absent students. A lack of transportation plays a role in student absences, Lenhoff said, but just blaming absences on transportation leaves out more nuanced factors. Systemic problems like unemployment, financial insecurity and crime all contribute to a school district's chronic absenteeism rate. In interviews with families for the Wayne State report, researchers found those systemic, societal issues collided with a family's circumstances.  "It was rarely as simple as, 'I just have no way of getting my child physically to school,' " she said. "Most families are not going to enroll in a school that they physically can never get to."  
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Can cities plan for equity? These southeast Michigan communities are leading the way

Municipal master plans set the tone for how communities handle many important issues like land use, transportation, housing, and recreation. But some municipal planners are just beginning to figure out how to use the city master plan work to set meaningful goals for advancing social equity in their communities. That's according to "Are We Planning for Equity?" a study published in November in the Journal of the American Planning Association by Wayne State University researchers Carolyn Loh and Rose Kim. Loh and Kim developed a plan equity evaluation tool and used it to analyze 48 comprehensive plans from communities across Michigan, measuring the degree to which they incorporated practices and recommendations to advance equity. Loh says a master plan can incorporate equity into its goals in many different ways. Housing goals can stipulate a wide range of housing sizes, price points, and types that appeal to people of diverse income levels. Transportation goals can emphasize the importance of public transit, particularly adjacent to new housing developments, for those who can't afford a car. Plans can establish goals for climate resiliency, taking steps to ensure that marginalized residents aren't disproportionately exposed to flooding or heat vulnerability. Economic development goals can seek to ensure that development benefits lower-income neighborhoods instead of just favoring high-rent downtowns. "Are you recommending accessible housing for a variety of folks, that's in a safe place, that's connected to a transportation system that's going to let them access the things they need?" Loh says. "If you had it in one sentence ... that's what you're looking for."  
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City of Detroit program aims to employ returning citizens coming out of jail

The city of Detroit is cleaning up one alley at a time while giving a second chance to the people who are coming out of jail or prison. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, "returning citizens" face unemployment at a rate of over 27% higher than the rest of the population. Delvin Wallace is a returning citizen, a free man since January 2020. He takes advantage of work opportunities like at the COVID-19 testing site at the former State Fairgrounds through "Detroit At Work." The program then got him connected to the city's alley cleanup project in August. Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the School of Social Work at Wayne State University, used to run a re-entry program in the city for women. She said going from a regimented life behind bars to a free society full of choices can be overwhelming. "Having employment that provides you with a regular schedule, that provides you with socialization to others who are doing, kind of, the work of life is really a helpful support benefit. But the more meaningful the employment is and the higher the wages, the most likely people aren't going to go back into criminal behavior," Kubiak said.

Detroit says mostly Black residents are getting vaccinated – probably

As advocates question the number of coronavirus vaccines going to Black and Brown recipients across the country, officials from the City of Detroit say even though the data is incomplete, they are sure that vaccines are predominantly being administered to Black Detroiters. City officials reported Tuesday that 70 percent of its vaccine recipients have voluntarily shared racial demographic data. However, over 26,000 vaccine recipients, or about 30 percent of all vaccine recipients by Tuesday, chose not to share their race, leaving a gap of unknowns of who is receiving the coronavirus vaccine in Detroit. Dr. Herbert Smitherman, vice dean of diversity and community affairs at Wayne State University and president and CEO of Health Centers Detroit Foundation, said it’s important to recognize the cases and death rates out of Detroit compared to the rest of the state when determining how to distribute vaccines. He cited the Dying Before Their Time report and the “longitudinal, historic challenges that African Americans and older African Americans have experienced in the United States.”
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‘What’s new is the attention:’ Black women celebrated as ‘Backbone Of Democracy’ after 2020 election

During and after the 2020 election Black women were heralded as the, “backbone of democracy” by many Democrats. Their organizing efforts and the support they galvanized were crucial to President Joe Biden’s victory and Democrats regaining power in the U.S. Senate. Their efforts in Georgia gained national attention, but Black women also played an essential role leading up to and following Michigan’s 2020 election. Early on, the Biden Harris campaign zeroed in on the city of Detroit. Many believed President Trump’s narrowest nationwide margin of victory in 2016, was partially attributable to a depressed turnout in Wayne County—the state’s most populous and bluest county. Ronald Brown is an  Associate Professor of political science at Wayne State University and a member of Citizen Detroit, a voter education group based in Detroit. He says the role of Black women in Detroit politics blooms out of places like Black churches and other centers of religious and civiclife where women often outnumber men.  “They are the foundation in terms of mobilizing the vote and they’re the ones also…who turn out the meetings that we attend. This is a not random sample, but the meeting that I attend, it’s the same thing is like 66% women, 44% men,” said Brown. 
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How the story of Remus Robinson relates to current racial disparities in healthcare

Dr. Herbert Smitherman, general internist at the Detroit Medical Center and vice dean of Diversity and Community Affairs at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been a practicing physician in Detroit for 33 years. Smitherman said he has met with several Black patients who don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccine or the health care system itself. He believes that can change if there are more Black doctors. “The race of the provider and having people that look like you, understand you, understand your concerns and your culture are very important to helping you receive needed care,” Smitherman said. A 2018 study done in Oakland, California, found that increasing the number of Black doctors could reduce the Black-white male gap in cardiovascular mortality by 19 percent. A 2016 study found that Black men and women in the U.S. have a life expectancy that was, respectively, 4.4 and 2.8 years shorter than white men and women. But Smitherman cautions that efforts to increase the number of Black doctors cannot be the only solution. “The mistrust was not created by Black physicians. It was structural racism and systemic racism within a health care system that created that mistrust, not Black physicians, but by non-Black physicians,” he said. Smitherman pointed out that issues such as where the vaccine is distributed, the times of day it’s offered, and the method for scheduling a vaccine appointment are all potential complications for the average Detroiter. He said figuring out solutions is all about having a diverse group of decision-makers at the table. “If you aren't having people of color represented in your real strategy setting and planning for vaccine distribution, we're not going to get where we need to get,” he said.
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Ethnic media alliance pushes stories of success, provides community leadership

Michigan is home to a variety of ethnic media outlets: the Jewish News, the Latino Press, the Michigan Chronicle among them. Hayg Oshagan, a professor at Wayne State University, looked at the outlets and had a vision: What would happen if they were brought together? So, in 2005, he met with editors from the News, Press and Chronicle -- and the Korean Weekly and the Arab American News. These five papers have a combined circulation of more than 130,000, and a readership reach above 400,000. And while circulation declines have bedeviled the mainstream newspaper world -- a 30 percent drop nationally between 1990 and 2010 -- some of the these properties (Arab American News, Latino Press) are showing surprising resilience in their subscriber ranks. Together, they are now New Michigan Media. Oshagan's goal was to make issues and concerns of ethnic and minority communities more visible to the surrounding community -- to make minority communities more visible to one another and to promote their contributions to the region. “Minority interests have been largely ignored by mainstream media,” said Oshagan. "The collaboration aims to change the existing narrative by bringing to light issues as a group -- and making people see the economic, social, moral argument of immigration to this nation and region.”

How to get accepted into college with a low GPA

For students who struggle academically in high school, the college application process can be especially stressful. A low GPA can prevent teens from getting accepted into top universities — like the Ivy League schools — and other selective colleges, but there are still options. Admissions experts say high schoolers can explain an academic dip in their college applications and spend the rest of their senior year making their applications more appealing. Another piece of advice: Students should discover the root cause of those academic shortcomings. Students can discuss poor grades in a college application essay, also called a personal statement, or in the additional information field on the Common Application. “Anything that the student can provide to explain that (GPA) would be helpful,” says Monica Brockmeyer, senior associate provost for student success at Wayne State University. “They should be transparent, because (GPA) is already visible to admissions officers through their transcripts. Colleges already know, so they’re looking to understand the situation and circumstances better.” She adds that admissions officials understand that “every learner is on a journey. For those eyeing a four-year college, an alternative admissions program may be the way in. If a student’s GPA is below the school’s standards, he or she may still be admitted under certain conditions. As part of the program, students receive additional academic support in their first year of college and beyond, depending on the curriculum. One such example is Academic Pathways to Excellence at Wayne State, which focuses on sharpening students’ academic skills as they enter college. “It provides them a transition period between high school and college to really understand how college learning is different from high school learning, to get extended support or even some remediation of writing skills or mathematics skills or other barriers like that,” Brockmeyer says.