Map: Children’s Traffic Fatalities in Detroit 2004 – 2014

DETROITography

child-traffic-fatalities-1

In rethinking the Detroit Geographic Expedition and Institute’s (DGEI) maps on “where black children get run over” and “citywide patterns of child traffic deaths and injuries” it became apparent to me that the pattern was partially due to the distribution of children in Detroit (map). For example Southwest has a higher density of children and also more traffic fatalities of children. However, there are some anomalies, such as the higher numbers on North-South streets in the Lower Eastside, on John R. North of Highland Park, and on Conner near the City Airport.

Detroit is known its high infant mortality rate, high rates of gun violence, and poor education system that all contribute to a harsh environment for children. How do we better protect the children in our neighborhoods from cars?

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Map: Landscape of Children vs. Elderly in Detroit

DETROITography

children-elderly-det2

I’ve been interested in the impacts of various issues on children in Detroit, from traffic fatalities to areas with the most children. The flip side, focusing on the elderly, is also very important and often overlooked in current development efforts in the city.

The age balance or imbalance across the geography of Detroit results in some interesting areas where children or the elderly make up a majority. Not surprisingly many of the areas with the most children also have fewer elderly residents. The riverfront has a larger elderly population often associated with the senior apartment high rises. Grand River cuts an interesting pattern along the Westside where there are more elderly above the Avenue and more children below.

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The Future Geographers of Detroit Haven’t Yet Made a Map

DETROITography

In May, I had the honor and privilege to collaborate with the Detroit Future Schools program at the Boggs School to present a series of activities about data visualization. Our main goal was to visualize and understand patterns and relationships.

I ran the mapping activity where 2nd and 3rd graders identified where they lived, how far that was from school, and if they had any classmates who lived nearby. Many of the students didn’t realize they had a classmate who lived very close or similarly, how far some of their classmates lived from the school.

My favorite response to the map was:

“That doesn’t even look like Detroit.”

It is all too easy to get wrapped up in data, boundary lines, and “accurate” depictions of reality. Children can quickly…

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Map: Children’s Neighborhoods in Detroit

DETROITography

children-nhoods

When the Skillman Foundation launched the “Good Neighborhoods” Initiative in 2006 they focused on the areas of Detroit that had high numbers of children and high rates of poverty. I assume that they utilized 2000 Census data and wanted to check if there was any significant shift. While I run a test of statistical significance of Detroit’s child population, it is a very simple analysis to see that there are still large populations of children in the “good neighborhoods.” The Far Eastside and University District areas are the only that appear to have high numbers of children that are not within a Skillman Good Neighborhood.

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Global Malnutrition and the Politics of Food

Whether they are starving or eating too much, children around the world are malnourished. A full belly doesn’t necessarily mean that a child is getting proper nutrition from the food that they eat. Obese children are just as nutritionally deficient as children who have bloated bellies from hunger. The result is a global generation of unhealthy children who will experience a shorter life expectancy than normal from complications with their health and related diseases. The double burden of malnutrition is seen in both a complete lack of access to food and an overabundance of unhealthy foods.

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report stated that combating five major health factors could eliminate millions of premature deaths. Among those top five is childhood nutrition. Lacking nutritious food has serious implications for health, but consuming too much food without nutritional value, which contributes to obesity, is more likely to lead to a premature death. For the first time in 15 years, children in the US have a lower life expectancy than their parents. By the same token, children in countries defined as “developing” have faced low life expectancies for many years, but what they eat (or don’t eat) is less likely to kill them. Who would have imagined that being overweight is more likely to kill you than being underweight?

On the flip side of childhood nutrition is the near complete lack of access to food in developing countries. There were any number of crises this past year that qualified the “need” for food aid from “developed” countries. Floods, earthquakes, droughts, famines, etc. – but what is the state of food aid? Is it excellent nutritious assistance in difficult times? Bill Easterly and the Aid Watch blog ask: “Can the story on US food aid get any worse?,” noting that the US continues to support relief agencies that use a corn-soy food blend that doesn’t even meet the 1960s international nutrition standards of food aid. Children in developing countries don’t necessarily die from a lack of nutritious food, but rather from the diseases that attack their weakened immune systems. The food we eat is a first line of defense by keeping the rest of our body systems healthy. Some of the best examples of the importance of food and health come from Paul Farmer, who often says that, “the treatment for hunger is food.” Many times food is overlooked as a critical treatment in health crises, which makes it that much more important to invest in nutritious alternatives for food aid and support local farmers around the world.

Unfortunately here in the US, corporations have a firm grip on what we eat. There are a small number of major factory farming corporations that produce our food. They use coercive actions and their money to keep control of farmers and the food industry. This hurts our families and communities here in the US and contributes to the nutritional inadequacy of what Americans eat, but it also has far reaching implications in developing countries. Because of the control by US corporations of the food industry and the US government’s subsidies for farmers, food prices have been rising steadily around the world. This impact is hitting small farmers in developing countries hardest as they struggle to find markets to sell their produce and support their families. These small farmers can’t compete with US farmers who are government subsidized or the US corporations who are mass producing and shutting them out. Even as people in developing countries struggle to buy food to eat, one in six Americans are struggling with hunger. This is largely a result of the economic downturn and has affected more than just those already considered poor in the US. It is estimated that nearly one billion people do not have access to a secure source of food around the globe.

While the fact that many Americans struggle with food security is shocking, the spike in rates of obesity demonstrates the pressing need for communities to rethink how they eat and live. Obesity gives a blatant visual representation of how much control we have lost when it comes to our food. The WHO states that “globesity” is spreading across the globe and millions will suffer if we don’t make changes. A recent study conducted by Wayne State University showed that one third of infants in the US are obese or at risk for obesity. This allows us to easily assume that an obese infant will become an obese adult. Hunger and food security are extremely important issues when it comes to talking about health and nutrition. Many who suffer being underweight have suffered through natural disasters, but the immediate threat to children and the global population is the man-made disaster of being overweight.

Thankfully there are many people who are working to fix the food industry, support local farmers, and promote healthy eating to children in schools. President Obama recently signed the Child Nutrition Bill to increase access to healthy foods in schools. Where there have been numerous policy barriers nationally and internationally, this is a step in the right direction to bring policies in line with the health needs of our global population. We must commit to supporting the basic health of our children if we care about a building a healthy future.

Originally featured and posted at,  Americans for Informed Democracy on 18 January 2011.

weekend of the obruni

This past weekend is when we began our intense American weekend. This was when we did the most Obrooni things and par-took in the delights and desires of an Obrooni. When you think of everything that a visiting Obrooni might do, we did it. Every place where an Obrooni was most comfortable, we went.

We started out by going to the shopping mall. Yes, a shopping mall It didn’t contain much that was amazing, but it was close enough to home for most of the area Obroonis to shop there. The shopping mall was tucked away, hidden almost, in the opulent, lavish, private homes of the wealthy – and Obroonis. There was a liquor store, jewlery store, ice cream, fedex, small grocery store, some beauty salons, offices, and a very nice internet cafe. It was easy to tell that Obroonis from the area and those working in Ghana frequented the shopping mall. It was easy to tell that these Obroonis flocked there for their daily needs, but it so much easier to get what you need on the street. This is also where I saw my first ‘real’ parking lot in Ghana.

We did some shopping and haggling in the ‘Center for National Culture’ and headed back to the hostle to eat some lunch.
It was a big meager and a bit Obrooni of us, but still good. We ended the eating session with some FanChoco, it is a plastic pouch, like the water, of frozen chocolate milk – so good during a hot day. A few of us decided to go for a run for the first time in Ghana. So far the only people running that I have seen are either training for soccer or are late for something. As we ran the back streets behind our hostel, people called out, “Obrooni, what are you doing?” Children ran to the street and callled ‘Obrooni’ to us. The children lined the road clapping, cheering, and chanting, ‘Obrooni.’ It was almost as if I was in a high school cross country race again. The best was the taxis who honked at us to see if we wanted a ride. No, just some silly Obroonis who want their excerise. It must really make no sense to most Ghanaians since most of their daily lives and jobs are excerise. Here they can’t choose when to excercise or not, it is run or just stop.

We had heard of a great recommended restaurant called Afrikiko and decided to go there for dinner, since there was also music. But we arrived and all the lights were off, it looked quite shady so we headed to another recommended place called ‘Home Touch.’ On the way to Home Touch, our taxi passed the new, under-construction american embassy. It was so disgustingly huge and unnecessarily gigantic. The US has pulled it foreign aid from Ghana, so why does it seek such an imposing presence? The compund was massive, many storied almost like a hotel, multpile gates, and numerous secuirty cameras. I couldn’t believe the extent of the new embassy. We arrived and got a big table and at the start of the evening we were the only people in the place. We drank and ate goat and fufu in a light soup. I am not sure what light soup means because my soup was so hot that my lips and throat burned with goodness afterwards. Some of the girls in our group sang with the live band (quite Obrooni) and made fools of themselves, but it was a great time. When we were given our bill it was about 200,000 cedis too much and we thought we were getting jipped, but oh well.

We had the rest of the weekend plus Friday off since we were traveling to the far eastern region of Volta on Sunday. We woke up early, for some reason unknown to me, for breakfast on Friday because some of the girls were picking up dresses made in Osu and some of the other girls were getting their hair braided. Most people returned to their beds to regain some lost sleep – which I hear is impossible to do, but I did likewise. I slept for a really long time and did some more reading, finishing The Village of Waiting. We then met up with hte group at Frankie’s to go out and Francis joined us. We first went to Epo’s bar with Francis and met and had some drinks. While we were there a big volunteer group from England arrived and we chatted it up. I talked to a girl who was stationed in a very rural village in the north of Ghana and found out that each person was stationed far off in a different area. The English people, with their beautiful accents, were headed to a nightclub called ‘Bliss,’ so we decided to tag along. It seems that no one, no taxi driver or otherwise, knows of Bliss or where it is. Finally we found a taxi driver who knew the place and headed there. We arrived and were treated to the most Western style bar and club that I have seen yet. It was full of Obroonis – American and English – no wonder no one had heard of the place.

Saturday we all slept in after the night of clubbing. I missed breakfast since I slept too late. Most of us stayed in our rooms sleeping, reading, or just hanging out. I didn’t emerge until 2pm and didn’t eat until very late. We all went in waves to the internet cafe and talked in the courtyard about our experiences in Ghana so far. What an Obrooni weekend – in style, food, company, experience, and habit. We ended up having a great Ghanaian meal at Cez Arfique, but otherwise so Obrooni.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.