Flint kids’ health improving, but more to do after water crisis, panel says – MLive.com

February 14, 2020




FLINT, MI — Advocates for Flint children say they have made strides in health, nutrition and education in the nearly six years since the city’s water crisis started, but stubborn problems remain for kids who grow up here.

“We realized that as a community what we really needed to do, really the only thing we could do” after the water crisis “was to move forward,” Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha said during a report on the State of Flint Kids Friday, Feb. 24. “We have been leaning on incredible and emerging science of child development … to build a model public health program to mitigate the affects of this crisis.”

Hanna-Attisha, director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, gave her report during the program presented by PPHI and the Greater Flint Health Coalition.

She said more work still needs to be done.

“Our work that we are doing together needs to be sustained and continued for years if not decades to come, and our Flint kids deserve absolutely no less,” she added.

Formed after federal recognition of the water crisis in January 2016, PPHI is a collaboration between Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital. It’s mission is to improve outcomes for Flint children through nutrition, improved community and environment, healthcare and education.

“What happened (to Flint) would have taken most cities off the map (but) we will rise and we will be great again,” said Debra Furr-Holden of MSU’s Division of Public Health.

Data presented Friday showed the number of Flint 3 and 4 year olds in the Early On preschool has more than doubled since 2014, the year the city’s water source was changed to the Flint River for 17 months. Enrollment in Flint Community Schools has continued to decline from more than 11,400 in 2010-2011 to 4,500 in 2017-2018.

More than 98 percent of children in the city now have health insurance, and more than 26,000 are enrolled in a Medicaid waiver benefit that was part of the federal government’s response to the water crisis.

Doctors have prescribed more than 34,000 fruit and vegetable prescriptions since 2016, using federal funds, and more than 9,000 lead and galvanized water service lines have been replaced using federal and state funds.

State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said he’s continuing to push for funds to help city residents, who saw the city water system contaminated while Flint was being run by state-appointed emergency financial managers.

“Obviously there is a lack of trust in our community, and that’s deserved. The state and many others wronged the people of our town and lied to them … It’s important to know that to build that trust back is going to take work,” Ananich said.

“There is not a short-term solution. This is a long-term problem and a long-term solution,” he said. “I have to keep the pressure on to continue these programs (because) every year we get farther and farther away from when this crisis started.”

The state senator said he’s pushing to fund programs that improve children’s lives, and said programs that have and will succeed in Flint should be expanded across the state.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Dr. Sharon Swindell, the president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, also spoke at Friday’s event.