VODI-Impact: A healthy living campus in Detroit


Urban Detroit community receives outpouring of healthcare resources from pharmacists and other providers.

More than three years ago, the Conner Creek/Osborn community of northeastern Detroit was chosen as the site of a healthy living campus to be developed for local residents. With a declining population of just over 80,000 individuals, of whom more than one-third live in poverty, this area became the recipient of a grant for a safety-net enhancement initiative from the Kresge Foundation.

The foundation had asked for a proposal to address the healthcare needs of a community, along with a social determinant. In the case of Conner Creek/Osborn, the healthcare focus was diabetes and hypertension, with 14.4% of adults age 18 and older reporting diabetes and 27.4% reporting hypertension, according to data from the 2010 City of Detroit Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The social determinant within this program became safety, because of a high level of crime that included assault and battery, vehicle thefts, and damage to property.

Pharmacists were key in planning the needs assessment for the Voices of Detroit Initiative (VODI)-Impact: A healthy living campus. Community pharmacists provided feedback about the health of their community and helped to determine the priorities for the programs, said Nancy Lewis, PharmD, a consultant and adjunct associate research scientist, University of Michigan, College of Pharmacy.

“Pharmacists on our planning committees gave us input on specific interventions that we do for folks, which was very helpful and needed,” Lewis said. “A lot of time pharmacists don’t realize the role they can play in healthcare planning and policies. That was important for us.”

A central hub

The healthy living campus is located in a central geographic area within the community, with an office in the community building that houses its partner, St. John Providence Health System. The Impact office at the Conner Creek building is where residents are linked to various services on the campus or to partners of the program.

“We use the campus to bring in healthy living services, so that becomes the hub or safe place for people to come and receive services,” said Lewis. “People who want to get involved in healthy living can find out about access to fresh food programs, fitness classes, and health information, as well as to health services.”

Community pharmacists are offering services that include the promotion of medication lists and reviews of those lists. In addition, pharmacists have volunteered their time to present educational workshops and lead discussion groups on such topics as diabetes, use of insulin, and men’s health. A community pharmacist also set aside a day to give immunizations at her pharmacy to Impact enrollees who request them.


“One of the key challenges that we found was a disconnect between the residents living in that community and community-based organizations. People from the community really didn’t know about the services that were available,” Lewis said.

That has certainly changed with this new initiative.

“Pharmacists are a health resource for the community. On a regular basis, we offer Impact Health Day with University of Michigan pharmacy students, talking about health goals and offering blood-pressure monitoring, blood-sugar monitoring, and medication reviews with medication-list updates,” she said.

In addition, VODI-Impact partners have stepped up to help the community with nutrition education, fitness activities, fresh food-share orders, and safety patrols on the campus and within the community.

Recently, VODI-Impact joined its partner, St. Johns Providence Health System, to kick off implementation of the Affordable Care Act. St. Johns has also established a good referral relationship with federally qualified health clinics, so if an Impact member needs a health referral, that can happen quickly.

Trust is also a big issue for members of the Conner Creek/Osborn community. “We found in Impact the importance of developing a relationship with the community and the importance of developing trust. It has required a great deal of effort on our part to get out and be known to people and develop individual relationships,” Lewis said. “Pharmacists have a huge advantage, because they are in the community and people can see them. They have multiple interactions with people.”

VODI-Impact members now number 550. As the three-year grant comes to an end this month, the Kresge Foundation has indicated an interest in continuing support for another year. Over the next year, VODI-Impact will be reporting on its outcomes, including to what extent it has been able to organize the community and bring in resources and member participation in the various activities.

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