Developed from a French fort and missionary outpost founded in 1701, Detroit grew to become one of the largest American cities by the early 20th century. Detroit has been governed by three world powers: France, Great Britain, and the United States. As one of the oldest cities in the midwest, Detroit experienced a large scale fire in 1805 which nearly destroyed the city. After the fire, Detroit regained its position in the midwest and grew into a thriving hub of commerce and industry, the city spread along Jefferson Avenue, with multiple manufacturing firms taking advantage of the transportation resources afforded by the river and a parallel rail line. Because of its brilliant archtecture, Detroit was referred to as the Paris of the West.
In 1899, Henry Ford built his first automobile factory in an independent city that is now surrounded by Detroit called Highland Park. Ford’s “LEAN” manufacturing was soon adopted by rival automobile manufacturers, including Chrysler, American Motors and General Motors. All of them established their headquarters in the Detroit metropolitan area, solidifying Detroit’s status as the world’s car capital; the Motor City. A former automobile worker by the name of Berry Gordy was an emerging songwriter when, at the influence of a songwriter we know as Smokey Robinson, founded Motown in January of 1959. Motown quickly became another Detroit factory that instead of automobiles produced the world’s greatest singers and musicians.
Detroit is now at its tipping point! This tipping point being the critical point in an evolving situation that will lead to a new and well-developed city. As a physician, I often ponder the prognosis of my city and consider the existing signs and symptoms of our ailment. An examination would reveal joblessness, a disproportionate amount of hypertension, excessive crime, failing kidneys, some of the highest Body Mass Indices (i.e. overweight and obesity) in the nation, a high mortality rate, too many strokes and heart attacks, etc. Fundamentally, our number one diagnosis may simply be illiteracy. This means that many of our adults may not be able to read a prescription, fill out job applications, or handle other tasks most Detroiters take for granted such as driving an automobile that was made by a next door neighbor.
The Affordable Care Act, along with things like the No Soda Pop campaign, will help cure some of the health related issues. But, illiteracy may have a more profound social, political, and economical implication that requires a very special antidote. That’s why I am very proud that the DMC Sinai-Grace hospital has partnered with the United Way of Southeastern Michigan on an Early Literacy Initiative.
This initiative offers babies born at DMC Sinai-Grace hospital a free book, each month for the first 5 years of their lives. It is fueled by the GM Foundation and donors to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan and driven by DMC Sinai-Grace. Sinai-Grace was selected to be the first hospital to launch the initiative.
According to some sources, nearly 50 percent of adults in Detroit are illiterate. Fewer than 50 percent of teenagers in Detroit will graduate from high school. Less than 50 percent of 5-year-olds in Detroit are kindergarten-ready. Just 1 out of every 300 homes in Detroit has even one book. The only way we can make sustainable progress is by starting earlier. With this initiative, we are starting conversations with moms right after they give birth. We are getting books into their homes and into the hands of their children. We are providing families with the keys to their child’s educational success.
Volunteers will be at the hospital 7 days a week to meet with new moms and explain the program and see if they’re interested in taking part. Of the 125 families they’ve met with since the program began, all but one have signed up.
Every household who registers for the program will receive one book a month until the child is 5 years of age. This is made possible through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
“Together, we are making Detroit a greater place. This work is changing lives in our area. You’ve started something really incredible here.” – Cindy Eggleton of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
We’re looking for volunteers who are energetic about this program and would be willing to come into the hospital one day a week between 10 a.m. and noon to meet with new families. Interested volunteers can contact Sherrie Killebrew at (313) 966-4504.
Here is the link to Amanda Itliong of the United Way’s blog about the initiative, explaining the conversation she has with new moms here at the hospital: http://liveunitedsem.org/blog/entry/reading-begins-at-birth
Here is the link to the United Way’s web page about the initiative:
And here is the link to the volunteer posting:
We must be the change we want to see!
Dr. Reginald Eadie