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Urban HEART Detroit: a Tool To Better Understand and Address Health Equity Gaps in the City


The Urban Health Equity Assessment Response Tool (Urban HEART) combines statistical evidence and community knowledge to address urban health inequities. This paper describes the process of adopting and implementing this tool for Detroit, Michigan, the first city in the USA to use it. The six steps of Urban HEART were implemented by the Healthy Environments Partnership, a community-based participatory research partnership made up of community-based organizations, health service providers, and researchers based in academic institutions. Local indicators and benchmarks were identified and criteria established to prioritize a response plan. We examine how principles of CBPR influenced this process, including the development of a collaborative and equitable process that offered learning opportunities and capacity building among all partners. For the health equity matrix, 15 indicators were chosen within the Urban HEART five policy domains: physical environment and infrastructure, social and human development, economics, governance, and population health. Partners defined the criteria and ranked them for use in assessing and prioritizing health equity gaps. Subsequently, partners generated a series of potential actions for indicators prioritized in this process. Engagement of community partners contributed to benchmark selection and modification, and provided opportunities for dialog and co-learning throughout the process. Application of a CBPR approach provided a foundation for engagement of partners in the Urban HEART process of identifying health equity gaps. This approach offered multiple opportunities for discussion that shaped interpretation and development of strategies to address identified issues to achieve health equity.

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We would like to thank the HEP Steering Committee: Chandler Park Conservancy, Detroit Health Department, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, Eastside Community Network, Friends of Parkside, Henry Ford Health System, Institute for Population Health, University of Michigan School of Public Health, and community members-at-large, for their contributions to the work described here.


Funding for the study was provided by the World Health Organization Kobe Center in Japan, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (R24MD001619), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (R01 ES022616 and P30ES017885), and Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.

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Correspondence to R. Mehdipanah.

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Mehdipanah, R., Schulz, A.J., Israel, B.A. et al. Urban HEART Detroit: a Tool To Better Understand and Address Health Equity Gaps in the City. J Urban Health 95, 662–671 (2018).

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  • Urban health
  • Health equity
  • Social determinants of health
  • Health equity assessment
  • Detroit