Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Healthy Investment

Dallas' Baylor Hospital is undertaking an admirable and potentially revolutionary initiative. Executives at Baylor Health Care systems, Inc. have unveiled plans to invest $15 million for a diabetes clinic in South Dallas (colloquially, those of us from that area call it East Dallas, but that's another story).

Baylor should be applauded for making such a significant investment in the health of one of Dallas' poorest communities. In a 2006 study, the J. McDonald Williams Institute found that the demographics in the Frazier area, the area where the Baylor diabetes clinic will be located, are worse than those of the pre-Katrina Nineth Ward in New Orleans.
For Instance:

pre-Katrina, the difference between families living in poverty in the Lower Nineth Ward compared to the rest of New Orleans was more than 8.5%; the difference between families living in poverty in the Frazier area compared to the rest of Dallas is more almost 21%!

the unemployment disparity in the Lower Nineth, compared to the rest of New Orleans was nearly 11%; Frazier unemployment rate in comparison to the rest of Dallas is nearly 25%

the concentration of African-Americans in the Lower Nineth the highest 'at risk' group for Type II Diabetes, was higher than 31.5%; the disparity of the African-American population in Frazier is 44%.

Suffice it to say this population is vulnerable to a crippling disease that can lead to other crippling diseases, heart trouble, blindness, kidney disease and more. Our work at Central Dallas Ministries shows that equal access to disease management improves the chances of poor people to live healthy and productive lives.

I was a part of an initial focus group that Baylor executives pulled together when they conceived of this idea. One word that became a mantra as we began to talk about this facility was 'center of excellence'.

Here's hoping that Baylor's commitment and the City of Dallas' anticipated investment will produce an excellent initiative that creates a new paradigm for neighborhood revitalization, economic redevelopment and holistic health care that will help transform this long neglected area.

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