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Real representation? That's no (Saginaw) CAP

One of the tenets of the Michigan Environmental Council's Project Greenprint is to address the aging and dwindling housing stock that the residents of Michigan are beholden to. Saginaw and its people are well aware of the crises facing communities across the state.

The city of Saginaw’s recent history is a microcosm of the greater issues facing communities across Michigan: misplaced governmental priorities, aging house stock and a sense of abandonment from industry.

There is a bastion of hope to be celebrated amongst it all. An organization that advocates and educates for all the right reasons.

The not-so-scenic route: a road trip through Michigan housing

If you asked a Michigander to pick a few places on our map that make this place purely “Michigan," they’d probably point out some fan favorites—Detroit, our Motor City; the Upper Peninsula, a rugged testament to natural beauty; Petoskey and our northwestern shoreline, home to our globally rare freshwater dunes. 

Of course, they may also point out a place special to them. A place where maize and blue flags fly proudly; a city on the banks of the Red Cedar River; or perhaps a single stoplight town that you might miss if you blinked too slowly.

And while each destination has its own special features, they all share something in common—calling these places “home” is increasingly difficult. In fact, across all of Michigan the state of housing is in crisis, whether it be skyrocketing cost, aging homes in desperate need of repair, dwindling housing stock or home issues made worse by increasingly extreme weather events.

Making healthcare healthier

Over the past few decades, there's been a marked shift in the American healthcare paradigm. So says Chip Amoe, sustainability officer for University of Michigan Health.

In the past, clinicians tended to focus on diagnosing and treating a specific condition or disease with medication and technology, he said. That's still the case, but now clinicians are placing those ailments in the context of patients' greater lives—where they live, how they eat, where they work, how they sleep, the money they make, the education they have. 

Take lead poisoning as an example. A pediatrician may prescribe a treatment process for a sickened child, but these clinicians may also work to understand that child's life. From there, they may discover that a child lives in an old home or drinks from old water pipes. They may then connect that child's parents to programs that can remove lead at its source.

Now, healthcare systems are also undergoing a similar shift. Its staff are looking at how their own work environments—their buildings, their food, their equipment and their transportation—are affecting the health of the communities they serve. And institutions in Michigan are doing something about it.