New county health equity council to address health disparities in Ypsi area

A newly-established health equity council will harness the Washtenaw County Health Department's (WCHD) resources and community partnerships to address health inequity, with a special focus on the Ypsilanti area's 48197 and 48198 ZIP codes.

The council is funded through a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Equity and Minority Health, in partnership with the Michigan Public Health Institute. Grants are intended to address the underlying factors contributing to local health inequities, specifically regarding COVID-19.

"The rationale was that COVID-19 incidents and death rates disproportionately impacted people of color, and here in our county that primarily means the eastern side of the county," says WCHD Community Health Promotion Supervisor Charles Wilson.

The council includes three community members at large, health department staff, and representatives from local community organizations including Mexiquenses en Michigan, Second Baptist Church, Educate Youth Ypsi, and Community Family Life Center. Wilson says the health department already had relationships with those organizations before COVID-19 and worked even more closely with them during the pandemic. 

The council will identify strategies to meet community needs and distribute mini-grants to community organizations whose missions are in line with the council's goals to reduce and eliminate COVID-19 and other health inequities in the county. The council will meet once or twice a month from November 2022 through May 2023 and will receive resources, data, and other supports from the health department.

Wilson says the limited time for the council is related to grant funding stipulations, but he hopes to continue the health equity council's work after spring of 2023. He says he's not anticipating another crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic any time soon, but health issues that impact the community come up from time to time.

"I'd like us to create a resource, a community body, that can address health-related issues that come up and impact a segment of the community that is under-resourced," Wilson says.

Wilson emphasizes that the council will drive decisions about what issues to tackle and what strategies to use.

"This is community-driven in terms of what the council decides to work on. It's not decided by the health department," Wilson says. "What I think will happen is that it will create ownership among the council, and that will create sustainability. That's what I'm most excited about."

Health department staff are reviewing applications from community members at large this week. Representatives of local organizations who would like more information about getting involved in the council can reach out to Cindra James at jamesc@washtenaw.org.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.