By Dennis Archambault
Canton, Livonia, Dearborn — you might not think of these suburbs as having residents who are impoverished. It’s been well-known since the last major recession and the collapse of the manufacturing center that employment was slow to recover and many households are struggling nearly a decade later. That struggle translates into critical social determinants that erode access to health and health status overall.
Crain’s Detroit Business asked the question about the role of philanthropy in addressing “poverty quietly growing in the suburbs” (http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20171022/news/642721/suburban-poverty-on-the-rise-but-is-philanthropy-following). It might have asked the same about the public and private health system. Community needs assessments are noting these growing pockets of poverty, as are other initiatives like Healthy Dearborn, which has noted areas of food insecurity in that community, which has access to quality produce markets in almost ever sector of its geography.
Poverty is no longer geographically centered in urban centers like Detroit or its working class suburbs like Ecorse, River Rouge, and Inkster. In many cases its invisible, such as the homes of some refugee families that have no furniture. “Low-wage jobs, older housing stock that is less desirable and less expensive and drawing lower-income populations and the loss of jobs tied to the shift from a manufacturing economy are spurring the growth of poverty,” notes Alan Berube, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
There certainly is a role for philanthropy. But this is also a growing public health challenge that needs to integrate the resources of the private health system. The Crain’s article suggests that suburban poverty tends to grow, it doesn’t recede, but may be ignored. Health issues driven by the social determinants of poverty affect the neighbors of more affluent people as it does larger communities.
“Detroit is not an island,” notes Tonya Allen, CEO of the Skillman Foundation.
Dennis Archambault is vice president, Public Affairs for Authority Health.