The University Record, September 23, 1998

School of Public Health and MIChild reach for children in need

By Amy Reyes
News and Information Services

For children of the working poor on Detroit's east side, regular checkups, dental and vision care and other basic medical services are a luxury they can't afford. Their parents can't afford to buy them health insurance and they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, so children fall between the cracks.

A School of Public Health-led coalition--the East Side Community Health Insurance Program for Children--seeks to enroll eligible children of the working poor into MIChild, Michigan's version of a federal program designed to insure children of the working poor whose jobs don't offer health insurance of any kind.

Coalition members include the Detroit Department of Human Services, Wolverine Human Services and the Neighborhood Service Organization, among other government, medical and grassroots groups.

While applications will be sent home with school children, an effort must be made to enroll hard-to-reach children, says Richard Lichtenstein, an associate professor of health management and policy and the coalition's coordinator.

"The idea is that government and health departments are not necessarily going to find these hard-to-reach kids. We really need to have a community-based effort to find them in their communities. We'll meet them at home or anywhere and help them fill out the MIChild form. We'll also try to identify other services the family may need,'' he says.

The School of Public Health's participation in the project is twofold. The first and foremost aspect of the project is to extend health insurance to children. The second digs deeper into the root causes of the uninsured by conducting research that will provide answers, says Lichtenstein.

Researchers will attempt to identify characteristics of uninsured children; the status of the children's health; the effect having health insurance will have on their health; how readily available medical service is for these children; and whether parents have delayed health care for their children due to lack of insurance.

The coalition will target uninsured children who live in the Detroit zip code areas of 48213, 48214 and 48215, which are neighborhoods also known by residents there as Airport, Conner, Kettering/Butzel, Mack, St. Jean and East Riverview. According to a 1996 study by U-M researchers, 8.2 percent or 2,800 of the children who reside in these neighborhoods are uninsured. Other studies indicate that the infant mortality rates in these communities hovered between 14 and 30.6 per 1,000 births compared to a national average of 8.4 per 1,000 births.

Families eligible for MIChild must earn no more than $32,000 annually for a family of four. Many families in the neighborhoods are in that category, particularly female-headed households, which make-up approximately 40 percent of the households in the targeted Detroit neighborhoods. Approximately two-thirds of the female-headed households in these sections of Detroit live below the poverty level.

The coalition's work is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, which contributed a total of $300,000 in grants to six organizations to reach uninsured Detroit area children. The East Side Coalition also received financial support from Mercy Hospital of Detroit and the St. John Health System, also in Detroit.

For more information on MIChild, call the 24-hour hotline, (888) 988-6300.


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