Life Expectancy Declines in Michigan, US

The average life expectancy for Americans decreased in 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the same goes for Michiganders.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, which is run by the Centers for Disease Control, the average life expectancy of an American in 2019 was 79 years of age and by 2020 that decreased 77 years of age. In 2021, the National Center for Health Statistics reported the average life expectancy of an American decreased to 76 years of age. For Michigan, the Michigan Department of Community Health did not have data for 2021, but for 2020 the average life expectancy of males and females, both white and black, declined.

The first chart below shows that between 2019 and 2020 the life expectancy for females declined from 80.6 years of age to 79.2; for males the average life expectancy declined from 75.7 years of age to 73.6. Prior to the reported 2022 average life expectancy ages, the last times they were as low was in 2002 for females (79 years of age) and 1999 for males (73.4 years of age).

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the top 10 contributing factors to death for those who live in Michigan in 2020 were:

•Heart Disease (117,087 deaths)

•Cancer (21,118)

•COVID-19 (11,362)

•Accidents (6,044)

•Stroke (5,873)

•Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (5,644)

•Alzheimer’s Disease (4,860)

•Diabetes (3,408)

•Kidney Disease (1,940)

•And Influenza, Pneumonia (1,880)

While we know the leading causes of death, it is believed by the CDC that the pandemic likely drove the recent decline in the average life expectancy for Americans, across the board. In Michigan, COVID-19 itself attributed to 11,362 deaths in 2020. We also know that the number of deaths related to heart disease, accidents, influenza/pneumonia, kidney disease, diabetes and stroke increased between 2019 and 2020, as did the drug overdose rates.

So, while the numbers above help frame the story as to why Michigan’s average life expectancy is decreasing, digging into the data another way also tells another story.

The Michigan Department of Community Health publicly presents data on the average life expectancy broken down by both sex and race. As shown above, overall, females have long had a higher life expectancy over males. However, when further breaking down the data, we see that black females and white males in Michigan have had nearly the same life expectancy since 1910. In 2020, the average life expectancy for black females in Michigan was 73.3 years of age, a decrease of 3.3 years from 2019. The average life expectancy of white men in Michigan was 75.3 years of age in 2020, a decrease of 1.3 years from 2019. White females in Michigan experienced a 0.9 decrease in average life expectancy, which was the smallest decrease of the four groups. It was black males who had the largest decrease in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 in Michigan at 4.8 years; in 2020 the average life expectancy for black males in Michigan was reported at 64.9 years of age. The last time the average life expectancy for black males was that low, or lower, was in 1995 when it was reported to be 64.4 years of age.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, the top leading causes of death for black males in Michigan in 2020 were:

•Heart Disease (2,430 deaths)

•COVID-19 (1,610)

•Malignant neoplasms (1,272)

•Accidents (799)

•Assault ( 512)

Note that assault is not even among the overall the top 10 causes for Michigan citizens overall.

While we mentioned the effect COVID-19 has had on life expectancy, as well as drug overdoses and the increase mortality rates related to other diseases, it should also be noted that number of individuals with access to health care has increased in recent years. So, as the average life expectancy is decreasing, more individuals are receiving greater access to health care, an odd result, but probably the effect of COVID has overtaken the benefits of better care.

Overall, decline in life expectancy for all sexes and races is concerning as it means people are dying earlier than they should be.

Inflation Puts Strain on Food Banks, Families in Southeastern Michigan

Rising inflation is hitting people all over the metropolitan area. For example, food banks are experiencing increased use, according to local media outlets. In the Metro-Detroit area major food banks include Gleaners Community Bank and Forgotten Harvest; these organizations not only supply food to those in need via their mobile food pantries and sponsored distribution events; they also provide food to soup kitchens, other organizations’ food pantries and other programs. According to MichiganRadio.org, in March of 2022 Gleaners Community Food Bank had about 13,000 visits to its mobile food pantries; the average number of visits in the six months prior to that was about 9,000. Feeding America West Michigan experienced a 34 percent increase in visits between February and March of 2022, according to the April 2022 Michigan Radio. A recent Model D article states that the Capuchin Soup Kitchen experienced a 25 percent increase in visits in the last year. Additionally, the same Model D Media article reports that Forgotten Harvest recorded a 30 percent increase month-to-month between April, May and June of this year. According to the article, Forgotten Harvest served 16,000 individuals in the month of June— 10,400 more than in the same month last year.

The charts below show just what inflation means to the average person. For example, in the first chart below, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the cost of meat, poultry, fish and eggs has increased by 8.4 percent in the Metro-Detroit area between July of 2021 and July of 2022. Dairy has increased by about 20 percent in that time frame and cereal and bakery goods have increased by about 19.3 percent. As we know, not only are food prices increasing but so is the cost of housing, utilities and gas. Gasoline has experienced the largest consumer price index increase in the last year at 63.9 percent.

Another way to view inflation is to understand how the value of a dollar, or $100, has changed. The chart below uses $100 in June of 2000 as a reference point to show inflation over the last 22 years. So, for example, $171.46 today would be the same as $100 in June of 2000. In other words, the purchasing power of the dollar has continually decreased, except between 2008 and 2009. Between 2020 and 2022 the purchasing power of the dollar has had the largest decrease since 2000. Between 2020 and 2022 there was a $21.52 difference in the power of the dollar. What you could buy for $149.74 in 2020 increased to $171.46. And again, these dollar figures are comparable to what $100 would be worth in 2000.

The data and anecdotal stories show just how inflation, coupled with supply chain issues, are impacting families throughout Michigan, Metro-Detroit and beyond. Seeing the writing on the wall, the Food Bank Council of Michigan received a $50 million one-time allocation in the 2022-23 State Budget to support ensuring families across Michigan could access food. These funds will increase infrastructure to better serve Michigan’s northern counties and Upper Peninsula through decreasing transportation expenses. The funding will also be used to conduct a Hunger Study, providing data to align federal, state and commodity programs to meet residents’ needs. According to the Food Bank Council, it is paying 40 percent more to keep up with food pantry demands across the state.
Additional allocations to food banks will certainly help with the increased use in food pantries, but the State Budget funding was a one-time allocation and the duration of the increased use in food pantries is unknown. The state, and federal government, though are working toward food security through other avenues as well. For example, about 1.3 million people from about 700,000 households in Michigan receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the state’s Food Assistance Program. Since the COVID pandemic began, all household have received the maximum benefits allowed for their size, and this practice continues. Following the May 2021 SNAP benefit amount increase, households of the following sizes are receiving the corresponding max benefit amount:

·One Person: $250  
·Two Persons: $459  
·Three Persons: $658  
·Four Persons: $835  
·Five Persons: $992  
·Six Persons: $1,190  
·Seven Persons: $1,316  
·Eight Persons: $1,504  
In August, households receiving SNAP benefits had an additional $95 added to their Bridge card to help further combat the affect inflation is having on food costs. How long this will last is unknown as federal approval of the increased SNAP benefits is necessary every month.
Schools are also working to create greater food security for students but either adopting a universal free lunch policy for all students, or at least sending free and reduced lunch applications to all households in the district. According to the Kids Count Data Center, 715,000 of Michigan public K-12 students qualified for free or reduced lunches’ income bracket in 2021. During that time though, all students—nationwide—received free lunches as part of a federal program implemented in the height of the COVID pandemic. This school year though, that policy does not exist and Michigan does not have a universal school lunch policy. Detroit Public Schools implemented one though, as have some others throughout the story. For the many districts that do not have such a policy, free and reduced lunch applications are being sent to all homes so eligible students can receive the service. For reduced meals, breakfast is $0.30 and lunch is $0.40. Income eligibility information can be found here.

We know that food banks are meeting, and serving, just some of the thousands upon thousands of individuals being impacted by the affects of inflation. However, long-term assistance to such food banks remains unknown, as direct long-term funding from state entities isn’t certain, and with economic concerns growing, donations may decrease. Food pantries serve a vital role in our community, as do programs such as SNAP and the Free and Reduced School Lunch Program. Food insecurity is an issue hundreds of thousands Americans face daily and long-term strategies to create food security need stronger framework and better funding.

To find a food bank in Michigan click here.

Park Land is Plentiful in Southeastern Michigan

In Southeastern Michigan there are more than 2,300 parks which are owned and operated by either the federal government, State of Michigan, a local municipality, the Huron Clinton Metroparks Authority or a private entity. The footprint of these parks covers more than 214,000 acres and much of these parks are concentrated in the more heavily populated areas of Southeastern Michigan, such as Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. For example, in the City of Detroit there are 359 total parks, which range in size, type (passive, active, trails, etc.) and ownership (city, state, private).  Parks are viewed as an essential service because they increase economic value, provide health and environmental benefits and create an aspect of community, allowing for greater socialization. Furthermore, understanding how accessible parks and recreation amenities are can help communities prioritize improvements that serve more people.

In Southeastern Michigan 1,847 of the parks in the region, or 80 percent, are owned and operated by local municipalities. For example, of the 359 parks in Detroit about 350 are owned and operated by the City itself, the others are owned and operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources or private entities. Private entities in the region own and operate the second highest number of parks in the region, followed by counties. The way in which counties prioritize parks in the region varies greatly. For example, in Macomb County there are only two county parks—Freedom Hill, which serves as an entertainment center, and the Macomb Orchard Trail, which is a 26 mile long multiuse path that is overseen by a board comprised of a county representative and one person from each community that also pays into the system. In Oakland County there are 13 parks and in Washtenaw County there are well over 20 different parks, many of which are nature preserves.

Public parks are largely funded by public monies and each municipality’s priorities are reflected in how their dollars are spent. So, in the case of Washtenaw and Oakland counties, for example, we see that the counties themselves place a higher priority on access to parks. The emphasis on parks and recreation opportunities in communities can not only be seen by how the general fund dollars are allocated to such amenities, but also by if there are additional taxes voted on by residents to further increase parks and recreation amenities and access to them.

While funding allocations to parks differ from one county, and community, to the next, we do know that access to parks in the region is easily attainable for most. As noted, majority of the parks are concentrated in more heavily populated areas, but according to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Government’s (SEMCOG) 2019 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, parks and recreation opportunities are accessible within a 10-minute drive for nearly every household in the region. Additionally, according to the study, a 10-minute bike ride provides access to parks for 89 percent of households in the region. The study does show that for 42 percent of households in the region access to parks within 10 minutes of walking or use public transportation is not attaintable, posing a barrier of access to those who may not have a reliable use of their transportation. The lack of a strong public transportation system in the region does prove to be problematic for those who want/need reliable access to parks, especially the region’s largest parks. Since larger parks are located in less populated areas those without reliable transportation of their own, who may rely on public transportation, will have greater difficulty in reaching the larger parks. SEMCOG’s Access to Core Services report state that 7 percent of all households and 13 percent of transit-dependent households are within a 30-minute transit trip to a park greater than 200 acres in size.

The maps below highlight where parks are located in the region.

As noted, parks are viewed as an essential amenity within a community. However, funding to maintain and improve parks and recreation amenities is also vital to ensure such access. While we know majority of the region can access parks and recreation opportunities currently, we will further look into some of the funding structures that allow for such access in a later post and evaluate their long-term viability. We will also look deeper into the access of parks as it relates to the socioeconomic makeups of communities in Southeastern Michigan.

Induced Abortions in Michigan: The Numbers

Recent news that that Roe v. Wade may be overturned in an upcoming US Supreme Court ruling has many examining how such a decision will affect individuals across the country. In Michigan, a 1931 law that defines abortion as a felony could go into affect. This 91-year-old law states that it is illegal to perform abortions in many circumstances, including in cases of rape and incest; it also states that it is illegal to use drugs to induce abortions.

Currently, with Roe v. Wade, still standing, women are legally able to obtain abortions in Michigan with some restrictions, including:

•That a patient must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided;

•What coverage, if any, an insurance policy provides (according to the Michigan Department of Community Health 96 percent of reported induced abortions had a self pay source of payment);

•The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided;

•An abortion may be performed at or after viability only if the patient’s life is endangered.

Not only would Michigan be one of at least 26 states where access to safe abortions would be heavily restricted, but thousands of women would be negatively impacted.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, there were 29,669 induced abortions in Michigan in 2020, which was a rate of 15.8 induced abortions per 1,000 Michigan women aged 15-44. This is the highest induced abortion rate in Michigan since 1993, when a rate of 16.1 induced abortions per 1,000 Michigan women aged 15-44 was performed.

When delving further into Michigan’s induced abortion data we see that majority of women were 25 years of age or older. According to the data, 32 percent of Michigan women who had an induced abortion were 30 years of age or older, and 31 percent of women were between the ages of 25-29. Eight percent of women who had an induced abortion were 20 years of age or younger.

Additionally, of those induced abortions performed in Michigan in 2020 nearly 90 percent were performed in freestanding outpatient surgical facilities. According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were 30 facilities providing abortions in Michigan in 2017, and 21 of those were clinics. Also in 2017, about 87 percent of Michigan counties had no clinics that provided abortions, and 35% of Michigan women lived in those counties.

The data presented in this post shows that many women have abortions for many reasons—including for their health and safety. Every year, the women who chose to have an induced abortion are able to receive one in legal surgical facilities and often pay for the procedure out-of-pocket, as highlighted above. With the possible overruling of Roe v. Wade, thousands of Michigan women, and women across the country, could very well lose the option to have a safe, and legal induced abortion.

In anticipation of the ruling, some options to safeguard legal and safe abortions are occurring: 1)Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit in April of 2022 calling the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize that the Michigan constitution affords women reproductive rights and agency over their bodies. 2)Planned Parenthood has filed a similar lawsuit, through the Michigan Court of Claims, seeking to declare that the state’s constitution protects reproductive autonomy. 3)A petition drive launched by Reproductive Freedom for All seeks to amend the state constitution to affirm abortion rights. In order to place this on the November ballot 424,000 valid signatures are needed by mid-July. ●

Another means to safeguard abortion access in Michigan would be through approved legislation by the state legislature. Bills to repeal the 1931 ban have been introduced, but not brought forward for a vote.

Fatal Injury Related Deaths Continue to Increase in Southeastern Michigan

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the total number of fatal injury related deaths have, generally, continued to increase since 2000. In 2000 there were 5,263 total fatal injury related deaths and in 2019 that number increased to 8,059. The number of fatal injury related deaths report in 2019 was a slight decrease from the total reported in 2017 and 2018, but overall the total numbers have increased by about 3,000 since 2000. When digging into the most recent data at the local level, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported that the City of Detroit had the highest rate per 100,000 people of all fatal injury related deaths at 142.2; St. Clair County had the second highest rate at 104.9.

Fatal injury related deaths account for several different types of death, including general accidents, poisonings, suffocations, falls and injuries related to guns. Deaths from car crashes, slips, choking, drowning, machinery and other uncontrollable situations are deemed accidental. According to the data, Detroit had the highest rater per 100,000 people of all accident related deaths at 89.9 in 2019.
Poisoning deaths are also considered a fatal injury related death and Detroit again had the highest rate per 100,000 people for this type of death at 56.2; Wayne County had the second highest rate at 43.1.
Suffocation deaths had the lowest rates in the region, with Monroe and St. Clair counties not even reporting enough data for a rate to be determined.  Detroit’s suffocation death rate was 3.9 per 100,000 people and Wayne County’s rate was 3.

While Livingston County had amongst the lowest accidental death rates for the other types already discussed, it had the highest fatal fall related death rates in the region in 2019 at 16.1 deaths per 100,000 people followed by Macomb County with 15.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
St. Clair County had the highest rate of fatal transport deaths at 17 per 100,000 people followed by Detroit at 14.2. A transport accident related death is any death that happens during road, rail, marine and/or air transport. These type of deaths can involve machines and pedestrians.
Overall, aside from all accident related deaths, poisoning deaths had the highest rates in 2019 in Southeastern Michigan. Poisoning is one of the top three leading causes of preventable injury-related death. The other top two preventable injury-related deaths are falls and car accidents, which would be included in transport deaths.

Flooding Grows More Common in Southeastern Michigan

Flooding in Southeastern Michigan continues to grow more common as weather patterns shift. In the summer of 2021 alone there have been at least three major flooding events, leaving hundreds of people with waterlogged basements, furniture and more. While the amount of rain certainly has an impact on the frequency of flooding, so does aging water infrastructure and various other household and neighborhood factors.

According to the June 2021 report “Household Flooding in Detroit” by Healthy Urban Waters, in partnership with the Wayne State Center for Urban Studies and others, 43 percent of 4,667 Detroit households surveyed between 2012-2020 reported household flooding. Furthermore, in an online Detroit Office of Sustainability survey published in 2018, 13 percent of those survey reported they experienced flooding very often; 23 percent reported they experienced flooding somewhat often and 32 percent reported they experienced it occasionally. Additionally, a cross-sectional study published in 2016 of 164 homes in Detroit’s Warrendale neighborhood indicated that 64 percent of homes experienced at least one flooding event in during that, with many experiencing three or four events, according to the report.

While we have the data on Detroit flooding, recent anecdotal tales tell us how cities throughout Southeastern Michigan—the Grosse Pointes, Dearborn and more—also continue to be affected by the surge of rain during storm events. Old infrastructure certainly impacts how a rain event affects a community, but so do other factors, such as the age of a home and if it is a rental versus being an owner-occupied unit.

According to the “Household Flooding in Detroit” study, Detroit renters were 1.7 times more likely to report household flooding than homeowners. In a different study, the 2021 Detroit Citizen Survey, individuals were provided a list of home problems and asked to identify which ones apply to their house or apartment. There were 570 respondents to this question and of those a total of 1,111 problems were recorded; four of the five top problems (mentioned by 83% of householders) concerned water in the home (from plumbing to flooding).

The first map above shows the hot and cold spots of flooding in Detroit using the Getis-Ord Gi* statistic. Red dots represent “hot” spots of statistically significant clusters of homes that have experienced flooding. Purple dots represent clusters of homes that have not report flooding. The map reflects responses from a sample of 4,667 Detroit households who participated in the Center for Urban Studies’ Home Safety Assessment survey between 2012 and 2020. Among these households, 2,546 (42.75%) reported household flooding. As shown in the first map, the “hot” spots for household flooding in the City are located in clusters in the north end of the City, in the Jefferson Chalmers area near the river and Grosse Pointe Park, the East Village/Indian Village areas and in the Warrendale/Rosedale Park/Michigan Marin areas. Also note, some of these “hot” spot flooding areas in Detroit border other areas that have experienced flooding during recent rain storms, such as Dearborn and Grosse Pointe Park.

The second map shows 2015 data of the percent of renters, by Census tract, in Detroit. Those Census tracts with “hot” flooding spots also have at least 30 percent of the population renting and data shows that neighborhoods with a larger proportion of renters (compared to owners) and homes built before 1939 are more likely to experience household flooding. According to the Census Bureau, about 33 percent of the City’s housing stock was built before 1939.

The flooding study also found that primarily Black communities were found to be at high risk for household flooding; according to the Census Bureau, 78 percent of Detroit’s population is Black.

So, while we know that flooding affects some communities in Southeastern Michigan more than others and that the risk for the region will only increase as the effects of climate change grow, there actions that can be taken to mitigate flood damage. Updating water and sewer infrastructure to increase its reliability is a high, yet expensive, priority to help decrease the risk of in-home flood events for communities at-large. Investment in green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, is another option as is identifying parts of communities most prone to flooding and further investigating the specifics behind it. But again, these require time and money and municipalities regularly struggle to maintain their infrastructure, let alone allow for major upgrades.

Infrastructure investment is necessary, but so are larger actions to help slow the affects of climate change.

What Biden Should Do for Detroit: The Citizens’ View

A lot of expectations come with being elected President of the United States, and the citizens of Detroit want President Joe Biden’s top priority to be continuing to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the 2021 Detroit Resident Survey conducted by the Wayne State Center for Urban Studies between Jan. 15 and March 1, 2021, 39 percent of respondents said COVID-19 should be President Biden’s top issue. Respondents, all who are Detroit citizens, were asked to choose from a list of 10 priorities on what they believe should be the top. Of the 571 respondents to this question 225, or 39 percent, said it should be COVID-19. Livable wages, racism, access to affordable health care, police brutality and quality education were all separate priorities that each received 9 percent of the vote as to what Biden’s top priority should be.

As of March 28, 2021 an ABC News/Ipsos poll found that President Biden received a 72 percent national approval rating for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the same ABC News article states 75 percent of Americans back how the President is handling the distribution of COVID vaccines. In the State of Michigan 653,659 COVID-19 cases were confirmed as of March 27, 2021 and in Detroit 32,998 COVID cases have been confirmed. In terms of vaccine distribution, according to the State of Michigan, 18 percent of residents are fully vaccinated and 31 percent of residents have started the process. Furthermore, 9.5 percent of Detroit residents are fully vaccinated and 17.6 percent have started the process, according to the City of Detroit Health Department.

While vaccination numbers continue to rise in Detroit and the State of Michigan, so do COVID numbers. On March 26, 2021 there were 4,670 new cases in Michigan and a 10 percent positivity rate, the highest recorded since December 2020.

Aside from COVID infections and deaths, economic and education issues related to the disease loom too. In February of 2021 the Michigan unemployment rate was 5.2 percent and in Detroit the unemployment rate was 11.4 percent in January of 2021 (the most recent data at the local level). And, just as soon as schools began to open, several districts are again moving back to online learning in response to the uptick in COVID cases.

While Detroit citizens have opinions of what Biden’s top priorities as President should be they also expressed opinions on the following in the 2021 Detroit Resident Survey:

  • What they feel the state of leadership is at the federal, state and local level;
  • How Detroit officials can best serve their citizens;
  • What their top household and community concerns and problems are;
  • What the barriers to finding employment and building wealth are;

The responses to these issues will be further explored this week in additional blog posts.

All response data in this post and in upcoming posts are from the 2021 Detroit Resident Survey conducted by the Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies, with the assistance of the MDPBlack Caucus. The survey was based on a random sample of about 20,000 households whose information was purchased from a business marketing vendor. The households were distributed throughout Detroit and where available, the vendor provided landlines, mobile telephone numbers associated with each household. Survey interviewers reached 953 individuals, 678 of whom confirmed they were Detroit residents. The Survey Findings are based on weighted totals and statistics to achieve representative findings. Respondents received a chance to be randomly selected to receive one of 10 $50 visa gift cards.

Detroit’s Infant Mortality Rate Reaches 13 Year High

Michigan ranks 36th in the country in infant mortality and the City of Detroit has the highest number of infant deaths in the State, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. In 2018, the most recent year for which data was available, Detroit’s infant mortality rate was 16.7, the highest its been since 2002 when the rate was 16.8 These two rates translate to 9,476 (2018) infant deaths and 14,187 (2002) infant deaths, respectably. The infant death rate is the number of resident infant deaths divided by total resident live births X 1,000.  Infant deaths are deaths occurring to individuals less than 1 year of age.

As shown in the first chart below, Detroit infant mortality rates are consistently much higher than those of any county in Southeastern Michigan, and any other county in the State. Detroit’s infant mortality rates are also consistently higher than the State average. And, while the State’s infant mortality rates have been declining overall since 2000 Detroit’s rate has increased 3 points since 2016. It is important to remember that over 50 percent of children in Detroit families live below the poverty rate, far higher than elsewhere in the state.

Monroe and Livingston counties have regularly had the lowest rates; in some years not enough data was available for a rate. While we know that Detroit and Wayne County’s infant mortality rates are much higher than those in Monroe, Livingston and Washtenaw counties we also know that race plays a role in infant mortality rates. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans • Have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites;

•Are 3.8 times as likely to die from complications related to low birthweight as compared to non-Hispanic white infants;

•Had over twice the sudden infant death syndrome mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, in 2017.

Additionally, in 2017, African American mothers were 2.3 times more likely than non-Hispanic white mothers to receive late or no prenatal care. The evidence of these statistics are also apparent in the second chart below.

In 2018, the most recent year for which data was available, the infant mortality rate for black babies in Detroit was 15.9 while for white babies it was 7.1. That gap between infant mortality rates of white and black was even larger at the State level ( 14.4 for black babies and 4.4 for white babies) and at the county level in the region (compared to that in Detroit), where median incomes tend to be higher. Furthermore, Detroit’s overall infant mortality rate is likely the highest in the State because it has among of the highest percentage of black residents. According to the US Census Bureau, 78 percent of Detroit’s population is black, 39 percent of Wayne County’s population is black while 1 percent of Livingston County’s population is black and 2 percent of Monroe County’s is black. Statewide, 14 percent of the population is black.

Not only should the increasing infant mortality rates of Detroit and Wayne County be of concern, but so should the causes. As alluded to above, race and income are contributing factors to infant mortality rates, as is racism. According to the Michigan League for Public Policy’s report “Strong Moms for Thriving Babies: Right Start 2020“ issues such as poverty and racism must be addressed in order for local infant mortality rates to decrease. Recommendations to do this include extending Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum; allowing for and enhancing reimbursement rates; increasing the number of high-quality home visiting programs to establish healthy starts for families by offering moms and their children, valuable health screenings and connecting families; restoring Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit; and advocating for paid paternity leave.

Statewide, a $12.6 million annual budget for the new program “Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies” was approved as part of the 2021 budget. This program is aimed at decreasing the infant mortality rate while providing the resources in order to accomplish that goal. Components of this program include:

• Plans to expand healthcare coverage for a mother to a year;

•Moving a woman’s first postpartum visit to within three weeks, with a comprehensive visit within twelve weeks;

•Requiring implicit bias training for medical professionals;

•Expanding home visits;

•Allowing the woman to chose what form of birth control works best for her.

The problem, however, is that divided evenly this would provide only about $116 per child under one. If it were concentrated on only the 19%  of children in poverty, this would set aside a bit over $500 per child. Is it likely this is enough to make substantial change?

Livingston County has Highest Rate of Vaccine Waivers in Southeastern Michigan

As of April 5, 2019 there were 39 confirmed cases of measles in Michigan. According to media reports, those confirmed to have measles range in age from under a year old to 63 years of age, and at least three of the individuals with measles obtained both doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

According to the Michigan Public Health Code, there are a variety of vaccines, like the MMR vaccine, that students must obtain before entering kindergarten. Students entering school also have the option to receive a vaccine waiver though. In Michigan, like every other state in the U.S., vaccine waivers are given for religious reasons. Additionally, Michigan also allows exemptions for philosophical reasons. In order to opt children out of vaccination, parents are required to receive education on the benefits of vaccination and the risks that come when an individual isn’t vaccinated.

Regionally, Livingston County had the highest percentage of school-aged children with immunization waivers at 7.9 percent. St. Clair County had the next highest percentage of children with immunization waivers at 5.5 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of immunization waivers at 3 percent.



Across the State of Michigan the percentage of children receiving vaccines began to drop in 2013, and while there was a slight uptick between 2016 and 2017 (3.9% to 4.2% for kindergartners) there has still been an overall decrease since 2010. It was in 2010 that additional vaccine requirements were added by the state, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Overall, public health officials said the anti-vaccine movement is growing, in large part due to the ability social media has to spread information, and misinformation.

To learn more about the immunization of your child’s school, click here.  

Opioid Deaths in Southeastern Michigan Continue to Rise

In 2017, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, both Macomb and Wayne counties had the highest rate of opioid related deaths per 10,000 residents. Both counties had an opioid related death rate of 3.27. In our region, Oakland County had the lowest opioid related death rate in 2017 at 0.38.

When examining the sheer total of opioid related deaths between 2012 and 2017 we see that Wayne County not only had the highest total number of deaths each year, but also the largest increase. Between 2012 and 2017 Wayne County had an increase of 335 in the number of opioid related deaths. Macomb County had the second highest total number of opioid related deaths each year in the region, growing from 132 in 2012 to 285 in 2017. Macomb and Wayne counties were the only two in the region with opioid deaths totaling more than 100 each year.

Just last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood inside a Macomb County fire and rescue building to report that the State of Michigan was a recipient of a $10 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to combat the opioid crisis. Through this grant, and various partnerships, high-impact, state-based interventions with a focus on identifying novel approaches to address gaps in current treatment and prevention programs,” will occur. Programs already in place in Michigan to combat the opioid crisis include expanding the distribution of naloxone (a drug used to counter-act opioid overdoses) into the community, a Michigan State Police program that allows victims of addiction to walk into any MSP post and get help without fear of being criminally charged and providing access to real-time information on prescription data and analytics of controlled substances for prescribers and pharmacists.