Four collaborative teams of University of Michigan (U-M) researchers and community partner organizations have been awarded up to $25,000 grants for research projects focused on evaluating and strengthening interventions, programs, and policies that seek to prevent and alleviate poverty in Michigan. Please see below for descriptions of this years's awardees.
This marks the third round of community-academic grants to be awarded through a joint initiative between the Detroit URC and U-M Poverty Solutions. For more information about the previous years of grantees and the program overall, please click here.
Engaging low-income and minority communities in prioritizing community health benefits
There are a variety of competing health needs in communities, particularly in minority and low-income communities, which often have worse health outcomes than other communities. This project, a collaboration between the University of Michigan Medical School and Friends of Parkside, a non-profit on Detroit’s eastside, proposes a new approach to address health disparities by meaningfully engaging communities in decision-making to prioritize community health needs.
The literature shows that community engagement, improved health, and poverty reduction are all interconnected. This project will evaluate the use of a simulation exercise, CHAT (CHoosing All Together), to engage underserved, minority community members in setting priorities for community health benefit (CHB). Using CHAT, participants prioritize competing needs for limited resources. Specifically, this project will:
build on and strengthen existing academic-community partnerships with non-profit healthcare organizations (HCO) and community leaders in three geographic areas in Michigan;
with partners, engage community members in determining CHB priorities; and
assess the impact of community engagement on participants, on HCO decision-making, and on motivating community entities to improve community health.
CHAT has been used in multiple other research projects, including the largest one in scope called Deliberative Engagement of Communities in Decisions about Resources (DECIDERS). Through this project, a longstanding Steering Committee was established including public health and community leaders representing minority and underserved communities throughout the state of Michigan. This committee is committed to providing ongoing guidance, advice, and support for this new project focused on community health benefit.
Although the US health system is evolving to focus more on community health and social determinants of health, there is little incentive for healthcare organizations (HCOs) to have ongoing collaborations with communities in order to prioritize and address community needs or to improve health equity. Engaging underserved and minority communities in setting health priorities could influence decisions made by HCOs and other entities, encourage HCOs to prioritize work on community identified needs, and encourage HCOs to be more inclusive and transparent in their decision-making and required investments in their communities.
Susan Dorr Goold, U-M Medical School
Zachary Rowe, Friends of Parkside
Karen Calhoun, Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR)
Jen Skillicorn, Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM)
Maryn Lewallen, Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM)
Identifying the recipe for success: can a new cooking class program in a community health center increase participation in existing center programs and build core skills to decrease food insecurity among low-income patients?
Many area households do not have enough access to healthy, affordable food. This food insecurity is associated with poverty and numerous health problems in both children and adults. Evidence suggests that teaching cooking skills can help people better manage food insecurity by teaching them how to better reduce food waste, budget and plan meals, and cook healthy meals with inexpensive ingredients.
In this new research partnership between Community Health and Social Services Center, Inc. (CHASS), the University of Michigan Medical School and the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, team members will collaboratively develop and pilot a new cooking skills intervention. The project aims to:
- understand financial barriers, skill deficits, and preferences associated with cooking meals at home among CHASS patients living in poverty;
- develop a new cooking skills intervention to address food insecurity; and
- implement and evaluate the pilot cooking skills intervention.
The findings of this study will help guide future CHASS programs and research, and the project itself may help pave the way for future collaborations with the University of Michigan in this important area of research.
Julia A. Wolfson, Dept. of Health Management and Policy, U-M School of Public Health
Caroline Richardson, Dept. of Family Medicine, U-M Medical School
Richard Bryce, Community Health and Social Services Center, Inc. (CHASS)
Denise Pike, Community Health and Social Services Center, Inc. (CHASS)
Michigan evictions: assessing data sources and exploring determinants
Each year, tens of thousands of Michigan households lose their homes as a result of court-ordered evictions, and Michigan cities have some of the highest eviction rates in the nation. The goal of this project is to analyze available data to better understand the prevalence, patterns, and causes of evictions in Michigan, and inform decisions by social services, legal services, and policymakers to address the problem, while also contributing to the growing national research literature on the topic.
This is a partnership between the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Michigan Advocacy Program. The project has three primary aims:
- evaluate the quality of data obtained from the Eviction Lab and state and local court records by comparing them in three illustrative counties;
- conduct an exploratory analysis of determinants of eviction statewide using Eviction Lab Data at the census block group level; and
- provide recommendations for the further development of policies and programs to reduce evictions in Michigan, as well as recommendations for improved data collection and analysis.
This project is a step in reducing the number of evictions in Michigan because it will help improve the quality of existing eviction data, help explain patterns of evictions, and identify local policies and practices associated with lower rates of eviction.
Robert Goodspeed, U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Margaret Dewar, U-M Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning University of Michigan
Elizabeth Benton, Michigan Advocacy Program
Providing opportunity, not punishment: implementing a pilot functional sentencing program in southeast Michigan
This project is grounded in the perspective that the criminal justice system is broken. Over-criminalization and reliance on retributive punishment have resulted in a system of oppression that entrenches poverty and harms those on the margins. By shifting the focus to healing, rather than punishment, the criminal justice system can simultaneously address the root causes of offending behavior and improve lives while enhancing public safety.
Street Democracy, a non-profit organization located in Detroit, Michigan, will implement a pilot Functional Sentencing program in Southeast Michigan. Street Democracy, founded in 2006, is comprised of a small group of attorneys and legal researchers whose mission is to reform the systems that create and perpetuate poverty in Detroit. In contrast to traditional sentencing, where the focus is on punitive mechanisms such as fines and fees, the Functional Sentencing program proposed by Street Democracy attempts to “help an individual permanently exit the criminal justice system by replacing fines and costs with targeted interventions (e.g. job placement and medical services) that address the root causes of an individual’s offense” (Street Democracy, 2018). In 2017, Street Democracy successfully launched an initial pilot of a similar Functional Sentencing program in the 31st District Court in Hamtramck, Michigan.
This new collaboration with University of Michigan-Dearborn will research and implement a more permanent, larger-scale version of this program in order to lay the foundation for expanding the availability of Functional Sentencing throughout Michigan, as well as improve methods of collecting data on clients who have gone through the process.
More broadly, this research project will contribute to understanding about problem-solving courts, identifying the factors that may be most effective in reducing recidivism, as well as help illustrate the ways in which alternative sentencing structures may contribute to improving trust in the judicial system.
Francine Banner, Sociology, UM-Dearborn, Sociology
Jayesh Patel, Street Democracy
Lara Rusch, Political Science, UM-Dearborn
Jessica Camp, Social Work, UM-Dearborn
Rachel Buzzeo, Behavioral Sciences, UM-Dearborn
The grant proposals funded were selected based on multiple factors. These included: the quality of the research design (including the appropriate research methodology); feasibility of completion of the proposed study during the funding period; relevance of proposed research effort to communities involved; extent and feasibility of community and academic partner involvement; and degree to which the study builds knowledge about the effectiveness of interventions, programs and policies seeking to reduce or alleviate poverty.
The Detroit URC is a partnership of representatives from the Detroit Health Department, Henry Ford Health System, nine community-based organizations (CBOs) in Detroit, and faculty members from the U-M Schools of Public Health, Social Work, and Nursing. The CBOs are: Communities In Schools; the Community Health and Social Services Center, Inc.; Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation; Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice; Eastside Community Network; Friends of Parkside; Institute for Population Health; Latino Family Services; and Neighborhood Service Organization.
University Launches Nine New Projects to Fight Poverty (The Record, Jan 10, 2019)
Research Strategies to Prevent and Alleviate Poverty: Collaboration Between Detroit URC and Poverty Solutions
Poverty Solutions Webpage