Institute For Population Health

Increasing life expectancy in Detroit’s hardest-hit zip code


The Problem

Over the past ten years, the City of Detroit’s general fund budget for public health decreased from a high of $37 million to a low of $4.1 million. This decline in funding support reduced staffing and put the quality of services, and thus the health of residents of Detroit, at risk. The Institute for Population Health (IPH) was developed to address these issues and ensure the provision of quality public health services in the city of Detroit into the future.

IPH works to maximize positive health conditions in populations and communities through collaboration, scientific inquiry, and the application of scientific health practices. In this case, IPH specifically wanted to examine and address early mortality rates in certain zip codes in Wayne County and Detroit.

IPH wanted to design human-centered programs and interventions that would help increase life expectancy. Its team had the ability to gather vast amounts of data but lacked the internal resources and capacity to identify the underlying problems that would allow them to implement interventive measures.


The Solution

Dandelion was brought in by Bill Sullivan, a strategy consultant who engineers change in social systems, to assist in deploying the IPH Social Innovation Lab. Our objective was to analyze the available data, draw meaningful conclusions which identified where intervention was needed, develop innovative, and measurable solutions.

Drawing from the data gathered by IPH, Dandelion identified the city’s lowest life expectancy rates in zip code 48208. We then brought together a team of folks who live in the 48208 zip code along with epidemiologists from IPH, and institutions and businesses who are located and active in that community.

Our team led an eight week facilitation to identify the core issues or problems, and develop interventions which could be deployed into the community to extend life expectancy. Additionally, we designed infographics and collateral materials which displayed the most important data points in an easily digestible format. This armed IPH with the tools needed to communicate the need for intervention and to rally support for their plan among funders and decision makers across the city.