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April 2012

Food Insecurity Across America

by Louis Bach, Communications

Check out the food insecurity map created by Feeding America, which visualizes the USDA’s measure of households that lack access to nutritionally adequate food. (Food insecurity, in other words, means that a household sometimes goes hungry because it is forced to make trade-offs between food and other basic needs, such as medical care.) In 2009, Wayne County had over 470,000 food-insecure residents, 30% of whom did not qualify for federal food assistance. Wayne’s 22.7% food insecurity rate is higher than Michigan’s (19.0%) and the nation’s (16.6%). Interestingly, the child food insecurity rate is much higher than the overall food insecurity rate nationwide (23.2% vs. 16.6%) and statewide (24.8% vs. 19.0%) but not in Wayne (22.8% vs. 22.7%).

These statistics reflect on the economic causes of inadequate nutrition that persist even in areas that are not considered “food deserts.” Two new studies have shown that the relationship between poor nutritional outcomes (e.g., obesity) and the lack of access to fresh food is murkier than previously thought. This map reminds us that many food-insecure Americans live in rural areas, not just urban food deserts.

County Health Rankings and Ratings

By Katharine Frohardt-Lane

Would you have guessed that, by one measure, the healthiest county overall in Michigan is Leelanau? Now, thanks to the “County Health Rankings and Ratings,” a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, you can investigate health measures for your county and state easily online.  Drawing on diverse data from sources such as  the National Center for Health Statistics, the American Community Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the “County Health Rankings and Ratings” project annually rates and ranks each U.S. county on four health factors and their component measures and on five health outcomes along with an overall rating and ranking.   Rankings are grouped into quartiles and  mapped, with a map for each of the measures.  For example, here is a map of the overall county rankings for Michigan:

The four health factors with examples of their component measures are:

Health behaviors:  physical inactivity, teen birth rate, smoking
Clinical care:  percentage uninsured, availability of primary care physicians
Social and economic factors: children in poverty, violent crime rate
Physical environment: air pollution, access to recreational facilities, access to healthy food

Each factor and each component is rated, ranked, and mapped for every county within a state.  Comparing rankings across factors and measures is illuminating.  On health behavior, the southeast Michigan counties of Washtenaw, Livingston, and Oakland are in the top ten counties for good health behaviors, but no southeast Michigan county is in the top ten or even the top quartile (that is, top fourth) on the physical environment factor.  The maps below display the rankings on these two factors within quartiles.

Physical Environment

Health Behaviors

Counties are rated and ranked on five health outcomes as well.  These are: (1) preventable deaths (years of potential life lost); (2) poor physical health days; (3) poor mental health days; (4) low birthweight; and (5) poor or fair health.

While the website is a delight for the simply curious, it is a treasure trove of data for those seeking to improve the health of their community.  The “County Health Roadmaps” on the same website provides resources for identifying factors to work on for maximal impact.  Health researchers, too, are rewarded with ample references and  thoughtful discussions of each measure, covering why it was chosen, its strengths, and its limitations.

Gut-Check: Fifty Thousand Stray Dogs in Detroit?

By Louis Bach, Communications

Image courtesy of Rolling Stone

In Rolling Stone’s story on the organization calling itself Detroit Dog Rescue, the magazine gives voice to an unattributed estimate that the city of Detroit has 50,000 stray dogs. The author, Mark Binelli, acknowledges the number “seems quite inflated,” but the figure still made it into the article’s headline: “Detroit’s Epidemic of 50,000 Stray Dogs.”

Fifty thousand dogs in a city of 138.8 square miles would mean that the average city block (4.71 acres) would be occupied by 2.65 stray dogs. Obviously some areas of the city have many more strays than others, but does that figure seem believable? Let us know in the comment section.

When we start tossing around estimates in the tens of thousands, I’m reminded of the stories of stray dogs in Bucharest, Romania. In an extreme example a city facing an “epidemic” of stray animals, Bucharest has an estimated 40,000 strays, which caused 13,000 dog bites in 2010. It’s hard to believe that stray dogs are a bigger problem in Detroit than in Bucharest.

(via Curbed Detroit)

D3 Takes on TechTown

By Dana Politi, Staff Contributor

As we settle into our new home at TechOne, Model D’s recent interview with TechTown CEO and President Leslie Smith has given us insight on the impact the New Center’s business incubator is having on Detroit’s small business world. According to the business accelerator’s website, TechTown’s office, research, and technology space collectively spans forty-three acres. It began in the 1990’s when Wayne State’s then-president, Irvin D. Reid, envisioned an economic catalyst that would turn around the decaying area. The original concept was to cover a twelve-block area that intertwined schools, new and renovated housing and shops, and an entertainment center with the startups and small businesses housed or supported by TechTown. As the idea grew, a generous facility donation from GM became TechOne, the first TechTown building. Through TechOne’s first year, Henry Ford Health Systems donated supplies and office space to TechTown employees while the building was renovated. Since its opening in 2004, TechTown has a second location in New Center.

As Model D has noted, TechTown also provides programs that help grow businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs’ dreams of making their business strategies a reality. According to an internal study, TechTown helped grow 647 businesses and create 1085 jobs between 2007 and 2011. D3 is extremely pleased to be apart of this diverse and encouraging environment, and we hope that we will be able to contribute to the culture of melting pot of small businesses and startups.

More about TechTown [D2020]