Michigan Medicine CEO highlights importance of health equity and social determinants of health

In addition to supporting the state’s health care workforce, University of Michigan Health – Michigan Medicine President and CEO T. Anthony Denton is focused on improving health equity during the coming year, according to comments he made in a podcast episode hosted by Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA) CEO Brian Peters. 

 

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Denton said addressing health inequities in Michigan will involve addressing the social determinants of health to ultimately make health care more accessible in the state. He believes Michiganders are especially receptive to conversations about health equity right now and that there is generally greater acknowledgement of issues related to equity. 

“The opportunity to focus on health equity opens up the door to speaking and creating new solutions about social inequity, social determinants, and political determinants of health that cause us to try to understand how we can improve and advance the health of individuals and communities, which is the the framework for the MHA,” he said. 

So it’s important to me, personally, because underserved populations are so heavily influenced by minorities, [and it’s] certainly the same for individuals who live in rural communities, as we think about accessibility to health care—that if we do it right, it allows everybody to be productive and to then create a basis for economic success.”

Denton emphasized the importance of addressing food insecurity, in particular. During the pandemic, the number of food-insecure Michiganders increased from 1.3 million to nearly 2 million, with children and senior citizens representing many of these cases. He highlighted the annual Michigan Harvest Gathering, which MHA sponsors. 

The Michigan Harvest Gathering is a statewide fundraiser to raise awareness and funds to end food insecurity in the state. He said the state should continue the Michigan Harvest Gathering until they find other sustainable solutions, noting that food insecurity in Washtenaw County is 7.7% greater than it was before the pandemic and continues to pose a problem especially now due to inflation harming food affordability.

“I think it’s reflective of the challenges that our communities face for the most basic necessities, which is food and nutrition, and how the linkage between food nutrition and overall health is so vital for our communities to be able to thrive,” Denton said.

“I’ve had a personal passion for trying to address food insecurity. Still there’s food insecurity, as told to us by our community, many of which have expressed food insecurity for the first time in their lives. Now enter the effects of inflation over the last many months, it’s made food prices go up and affordability worse.”

Denton also emphasized the importance of providing new legislators the best information available so they can understand the value Michigan Medicine provides to the community when crafting policy.