Launched in 1995 with core funding from CDC, the Detroit Community–Academic Urban Research Center (Detroit URC) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. An equitable partnership among community-based organizations, public health and health care institutions, and academic researchers from U-M, the Detroit URC initially focused on child and family health issues, identifying several priority areas. The center has since expanded its mission, says director Dr. Barbara Israel, professor of health behavior and health education at U-M SPH, and now aims, above all, to foster and support collaborative research partnerships that examine and address social and physical-environmental determinants of health, with the goal of eliminating health inequities in Detroit.
Key to that effort is the prevention and management of chronic disease, particularly cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and childhood asthma. “That means a lot of emphasis on, for example, air pollution, the built environment, social support, social cohesion, and access to food and places to be physically active,” says Dr. Israel, noting that three of the center’s oldest and best-known affiliated partnerships are Community Action Against Asthma, REACH Detroit, and the Healthy Environments Partnership. “We’re always asking ourselves, ‘What in the community facilitates health?'”
At the outset, Israel and her partners in the Detroit URC spent the better part of two years hammering out the community-based participatory research principles and operating norms that would underlie their collaboration. As noted by its Detroit-based partners, the Detroit URC has deepened bonds and strengthened communication among the city’s diverse communities — especially between African Americans and Latinos — and between Detroiters and U-M. And the center has been associated with such new initiatives as Detroit Future City, a strategic citywide initiative aimed at stabilizing and improving Detroit, and the Detroit Environmental Agenda, which identifies and addresses environmental issues in the city.
In the last year, the center has received funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to help support these efforts. The center has also received grants from the National Institute on Health Care Reform.
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