This is one of the most disturbing reports I have ever seen. It is time for a change and if the fact that children die in Detroit more than any other major US city isn’t enough evidence then I don’t know what is.
Children are dying in Detroit at a greater rate than in any U.S. city its size or larger, a Detroit News study shows.
Mostly, they die of conditions resulting from prematurity — the top killer of Detroit kids — and violence, which ranks second.
“This is a public health emergency in the city of Detroit,” said Dr. Herman Gray, executive vice president of pediatric health services for the Detroit Medical Center and former president of DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan. “We are losing our future in really socially unacceptable ways.”
All told, Detroit kids through age 18 died at a rate of 120 per 100,000 children in 2010, the most recent year for which complete data is available. Detroit was the only city whose death rate among children topped 100 per 100,000; Philadelphia, at 95.7, was a distant second.
Over six months, The News gathered and analyzed thousands of bits of data from state health departments across the country to rank and compare, for the first time, death rates for children 18 and younger by the major cities in which they live.
Kids in Detroit face greater-than-average health risks from the moment they are conceived, The News found. More die of common childhood illnesses and environmentally linked conditions such as flu and asthma than elsewhere.
In 2010, Detroit (population about 713,000) and Cleveland (population about 390,000) had the highest infant mortality rates of Big City America: 13.5 deaths for every 1,000 live births — higher than in Panama, Romania and Botswana. The measure includes deaths from all causes in a child’s first 12 months, but most are the result of premature birth, which carries with it a host of potentially deadly conditions.
Violence, the second-biggest killer of Detroit kids, claimed 32 young lives in 2010.
“This is not just a police or criminal justice problem,” Gray said. “This is a public health problem (that requires) a coordinated response from the public health agencies, the organized health infrastructure, from the philanthropic community, the educational system.
“Virtually everything that touches our children and youth in some way has to play a role. It really has to be a community effort to address this crisis for our kids.”
Kristen McDonald, vice president of program and policy at The Skillman Foundation, which focuses on improving the futures of Detroit children, said “If kids aren’t safe, nothing else matters.”
“The homicide is horrific, but we actually have to get to this comprehensive place where children are just plain safe, not only safe from homicide but where they’re safe from any sort of attack or any violence when they’re trying to get to school or after-school programs.”
Kenis Green was among last year’s statistics.
Any dreams 12-year-old Kenis may have had of graduation, first dates or senior prom died Aug. 31, when he was gunned down on his front porch as his mother watched helplessly.
Sunsearae “Lo Lo” Hall, her two younger children and an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are still struggling to cope with the loss. And avoiding becoming direct victims of crime doesn’t mean Detroit kids, such as Kenis’ siblings, will escape its impact: Experts say children who grow up in Detroit face a future of health risks associated with living in an atmosphere of trauma and chronic stress.
“Every time I see a car ride down the street, I still get nervous. I don’t feel safe anywhere,” said Hall, who keeps Kenis’ ashes on the dresser next to her bed.
The deteriorating city impedes its residents’ access to healthy food, medical care, safe housing, police protection and transportation, creating a perfect storm of conditions that threatens its children, according to Columbia University professor Dr. Irwin Redlener, co-founder with singer Paul Simon of New York City-based Children’s Health Fund, which partners with Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System to provide mobile health clinics for Detroit Public schoolchildren.