The current public health situation in Flint is tragic and the road to recovery could be long, but the city’s residents will not face this challenge alone. Michigan State University has been partnering with Flint for more than 100 years. We were there as the disaster unfolded, and we will be there in the future.
MSU’s efforts in Flint are numerous and varied, from discovering lead exposure and creating a children’s health initiative to continuing longtime medical education programs in area hospitals and fostering economic growth.
Through outreach and engagement, MSU helps individuals and communities achieve their full potential. Working together with community partners, we are committed to finding lasting solutions that ensure a safer, healthier future for all members of the Flint community.
Here’s a sample of what Spartans are doing to help with the current water situation, along with other long-term involvement. Together we will find solutions and rise to the challenge.
Promise for Flint
Physician Mona Hanna-Attisha of MSU's College of Human Medicine is championing the long-term well-being of the city’s children.
Universities, community organizations partner to address Flint’s public health challenges
MSU joins a coalition of universities and community-based organizations to ensure community needs stay at the forefront in current and future research efforts in Flint.
MSU’s roots in Flint education run deep
For more than a half-century, MSU’s education scholars have worked closely with Flint students, educators and community members to support and strengthen the city’s schools. Whether helping expand Flint’s revolutionary community education model 50 years ago, or working to boost student achievement through a new $2 million project, MSU’s roots in Flint education run deep.
Empowering Flint with information
A new mobile device app called "Empower Flint" was developed by a team of researchers at Michigan State University and WKAR, its affiliate PBS station, in collaboration with Flint residents who test piloted the app. Its goal is to provide residents with a step-by-step checklist of the most important action items they should take to protect themselves, their families and even their pets in dealing with the lead water crisis.
Testing the water; making sure infrastructure is sound
MSU’s Susan Masten is a civil and environmental engineer and has been busy testing some Flint River samples for certain contaminants, in particular something called trihalomethanes. THM is a byproduct of the disinfection process—which used chlorine—and can be carcinogenic. Masten said one problem facing Flint’s water system is there is less water usage. Less usage means it sits in the pipes longer providing more time for reactions that corrode pipes and break down chlorine.
Finding Public Health Solutions
The lead water crisis shined an international spotlight on Flint and brought into focus a bigger picture of the disparities that make life hard for many people in the community. Michigan State has been helping address Flint’s most pressing public health issues through its Division of Public Health. On Feb. 17, officials from MSU updated the Flint community on several public health issues, including how we will work to help the children now and in the future.
Discovering elevated lead levels
A team of MSU and Hurley Children’s Hospital doctors and researchers discovered elevated lead levels and intervened on behalf of Flint’s children. The team included Mona Hanna-Attisha, Rick Sadler, Allison Schnepp and researcher Jenny LaChance. They analyzed lead levels in children five years old and younger and found the levels increased significantly after the change to the Flint River as the city’s water source.
Responding to the water crisis
Two MSU faculty members were named to Gov. Rick Snyder’s Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee. The 17-member committee will determine long-term solutions for Flint’s water system.
Fighting lead with nutrition
The foods Flint families prepare and serve can help limit the effects of children’s exposure to lead. Leaders in food safety and security, MSU experts currently are visiting family and group childcare settings to educate providers about nutrition. In addition, MSU along with Hurley Children’s Hospital have prepared a guide and compiled a list of food assistance resources for Flint families.
Helping the fiscal recovery
Economist Eric Scorsone and fellow policy and fiscal experts from MSU have worked with Flint officials since 2009—two years before the city was placed under a state-appointed emergency manager—and that partnership will continue as the city addresses its water infrastructure issues. MSU’s role has included training City Council members on budget and fiscal matters and holding strategic planning sessions for City Council and the city management team. MSU’s research into the deeper issues facing Flint also can serve as a guide for other urban communities in distress.
Leading in medicine
The Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved program helps MSU College of Human Medicine students develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to meet the varied medical needs of urban, rural and international underserved populations. Students work in the Flint community to positively influence individual and group health behaviors.
Collaborating on community projects
In 2015, the College of Arts and Letters funded four collaborative community projects proposed by CAL faculty that aimed to bolster community relations, create shared research opportunities through community engagement and incorporate the goals of the city of Flint’s 20-year strategic plan, Imagine Flint. Faculty members collaborated with Flint residents who served on the Arts and Culture Task Force and/or Flint institutions. All proposals were reviewed by a committee of two Flint Task Force members, two CAL faculty members with extensive experience in community engagement and Robert Brown, associate director of university-community partnerships for MSU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement.
Partnering with Flint for more than a century
Michigan State University and Flint both were founded in 1855 and the university has been working closely with the city for more than 100 years. Specifically, MSU Extension has been helping the residents of Flint to solve local problems, do their jobs better, raise healthy and safe families, build their communities and empower children for successful futures.
Keeping your pets safe from lead
Pets, not just people, can be exposed to lead. Michigan State University veterinary experts are arming Flint residents with the information they need to ensure their four-legged friends stay healthy and safe from lead poisoning.
MSU makes Master of Social Work more accessible with Flint-based program
At a time when service needs are great and increasingly complex, the Flint MSW program seeks to create access to education where it is most needed.
Flint water whistleblower recognized by Time
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the Pediatric Residency Program at Hurley Medical Center and assistant professor of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people for her research discovering that children in Flint had unsafe levels of lead in their blood from contaminated water.
Faces of Flint
How is the lead contamination of Flint’s water supply affecting the lives of everyday people in the city? "Faces of Flint" is a series of documentary video shorts and radio features that will air on MSU’s WKAR TV and radio that looks at how people—black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor—are coping with the situation.
Big Ten Network Shines a Light
The Big Ten Network has stepped in to help raise awareness and funds for the citizens in Flint. The network has created a public service announcement and has written stories on how MSU and U of M are working together to help the people of Flint forge a brighter future.
FIGHTING CRIME, REVIVING NEIGHBORHOODS
For more than 35 years, MSU criminal justice researchers have worked with Flint residents, business owners and police to fight crime and blight. From the creation of community policing in the late 1970s to a current project aimed at reviving the University Avenue Corridor, MSU criminologists have a long history of conducting problem-solving research in Flint.
Beyond the lead water crisis: Flipping the story
Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, assistant professor, MSU College of Human Medicine and director of the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, along with her team, is credited with discovering the increased levels of lead in children in Flint. In an update to the Flint community on Feb. 17, Dr. Mona explained how she and her team will work to “flip” the story so the kids do not become statistics of lead poisoning.
Feeding a City
Access to clean water isn't the only health issue facing Flint. Since 2008, Michigan State University public health expert, Rick Sadler, has been mapping out areas of the city that have had almost no access to healthier food options and evaluating solutions that could help remedy the problem.
Addressing the health of Flint’s children
MSU and Hurley Children’s Hospital have formed the Pediatric Public Health Initiative to address the Flint community’s population-wide lead exposure and help all Flint children grow up healthy and strong, giving them a better chance at future success.
Answering questions about lead exposure in children
Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative partnership between MSU and Hurley Children’s Hospital in Flint, and her team are working to communicate information and implement interventions that will lessen the impact of the exposure on those most vulnerable—children under age six. She answers questions about challenges children may face now and in the future and how parents can help.
Testing water quality
MSU’s Joan Rose, a public health expert in water quality and waterborne viruses, is working to improve water quality testing for lead, Legionella and other contaminants. According to Rose, a rapid-response water diagnostic service for communities needs to be developed and modern technologies for water quality testing be put in place to avoid future water crises.
Expanding community-based medical education
MSU’s College of Human Medicine has educated medical students at Flint-area hospitals since 1969. In 2014, the college announced a $9 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation that would support an expansion of the medical school in downtown Flint.
Improving public health
The MSU College of Human Medicine’s Division of Public Health was created through a partnership with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Genesys Health, Hurley Medical Center and McLaren Flint. A key member of the division is Rick Sadler, the MSU health geographer whose work was a necessary part of the lead analysis. The division played a critical role in uncovering the extent of the impact of lead contamination in Flint.
Supporting the healthy development of Flint’s children
The MSU Pediatric Public Health Fund was created to support interventions for the children of Flint affected by lead exposure. Tools and resources for health assessment and continued research are necessary for improving children’s health and development.
Student-athletes lend a helping hand
More than 30 volunteers from the Michigan State University Community, including student-athletes from football, cross country/track, swimming/diving and rowing, joined Spartan Marching Band members, student group leaders and Athletics Department staff members in distributing water and recycling bags. Flint native and MSU running back Gerald Holmes returned to his hometown to help in the relief efforts. The volunteers also included former Spartan wide receiver and current Houston Texan Keith Mumphery.