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Wayne State University Uses Data to Address Detroit’s Health Challenges

“We have to look at distributing data as a shared responsibility. We have to ask, ‘how do we share collective information to collaborate and solve problems?’” said Phillip D. Levy, professor and associate chair for emergency medicine for Wayne State University (WSU),

On Thursday, May 29, he led a keynote discussion at the university’s hosted session Precision Population Health: Transforming Outcomes with Data and Analytics at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Following his address, Levy joined a panel with Laura Appel, senior vice president and chief innovation officer for the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, Renée Branch Canady, CEO of the Michigan Public Health Institute, and Tim Lawther, deputy director of the Detroit Health Department. This panel was moderated by David T. Brooks, director of health for veterans and community wellness for Wayne County.

The discussion centered around a data sharing effort WSU is engaged in to address population health disparities in Detroit. Levy shared that 80% of health disparities occur because of environmental factors and behaviors, such as a lack of housing, low socioeconomic status, and lack of transportation.

“It is very clear that our health is not what it should be,” Canady said. “This is not an isolated issue, either. Employment policy is health policy. Housing policy is health policy. We are responsible for thinking about how we do population health in this nation.”

Appel suggested that the health revolution starts with a significant investment from public institutions in health education.

‘“This health revolution must start with investment in education, teaching kids to keep the health that they have. If someone is in the clinical stages of managing their care, they’ve already gone too far.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Health discussions should be elevated. As it relates to talent, a significant portion of Detroit’s population is already experiencing significant hypertension by the age of 30. This reduces available talent in the region.
  • There is a need to create more measurable ways to impact the future of health care outcomes. Data needs to be captured and utilized to strategically address population health challenges.
  • Significant improvements in population health will only be made when communities partner with health institutions to make change.
  • “All these data will not work if we are not authentically engaging with the people that are affected,” Lawther said.