MSU: Lead just one thing hurting Flint kids

Posted at 8:14 AM, Feb 18, 2016

Elevated lead levels brought the nation's attention to the children of Flint.

But Michigan State University researcher Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha says that's not the only thing holding these kids back.

"We had lots of obstacles for our children to succeed," Hanna-Attisha said. "The things that were threatening their development are doing the same thing that lead does. It threatens your development, so it's an added risk factor to many risk factors that we already had."

Children in Flint face poverty rates more than twice the state average, limited access to healthy food and water and high rates of violence.

"These interventions, what we're trying to do, are things that our children needed anyway," Hanna-Attisha said.

MSU formed a pediatric public health initiative to assess, monitor, and reduce the impact of lead on Flint and its children. The Dean of the College of Human Medicine in Flint says the school is uniquely positioned to help.

"We have the space," Dr. Aron Sousa said. "And really remarkable, internationally-known scholars who focus on community health, community participatory research, who have come here to do their work."

One researcher says she hopes that work will level the playing field so everyone can be healthy, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic class.

"That should be a right, not a privilege," Dr. Debra Furr-Holden said. "That should be a right. When you are born, you should have the right for optimal health."

The initiative includes plans for early education programs, nutrition classes, and years of follow-up testing and support for the children of Flint.