According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “food desert” is defined as an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. While people may not be surprised that an urban area such as Detroit has been classified as a food desert, some may not realize that several of Detroit’s suburbs have been classified as food deserts as well.
Nick Cook, a student in Wayne State University’s Masters in Public Health Program and a second year student in Wayne State University’s Medical School, knows that public health issues such as food desserts are not restricted to large urban cities like Detroit but can often extend to adjacent older suburbs. He just completed a six week externship to study public health issues such as food deserts in Macomb County, specifically Roseville, East Pointe and Warren. He was selected as one of six WSU medical students to participate in the Bridges to Equity (B2E) Program, a federally funded initiative designed to engage medical and public health students to work collaboratively on community based projects to reduce health disparities.
For six weeks, Cook worked with staff at Michigan Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Southeast Regional Center and the Greater Detroit Area Health Council (GDAHC) in Detroit. During his externship, he studied population health issues in Macomb County including lack of access to clinical care, diabetes and lack of access to healthy food. Nick Cook and the other B2E medical student externs will be giving a presentation about what they learned during their externships on October 2 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the WSU Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Science located at 3939 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI.
“While a large amount of my experiences have been in the greater Detroit area I think medical students and health professionals tend to simplify the situation by only using one approach to solve an issue or creating another organization to solve a problem like obesity or access to healthy food options,” said Cook. “Looking at the communities in Macomb County showed that each community was unique and had its own assets as well as problems. I learned that community based organizations were already present in the area and were working as a team called the Macomb County Partners in Health, which allowed for greater communication and partnerships between organizations. These partnerships will have a larger impact on clinical care, patient education and life style changes, food access and more. One organization alone could not hope to fix all these problems but a collaboration between health systems, corner stores, parks departments and pharmacies will leave a sustainable benefit to the health of the population of Macomb County.”
The externship in Macomb County was not Nick’s first experience trying to improve public health. He is currently a board member of Raising Our Community’s Knowledge (ROCK), an organization founded by Wayne State University School of Medicine students. The group actively works to educate people in and around Detroit through interactive presentations about common health issues plaguing the community.
Nick will graduate in 2018 with a MD degree from Wayne State University and plans to specialize in Hematology/Oncology.
For question regarding Nick Cook or Wayne State University, please contact Rachel Huber at [email protected]