Mott Foundation grants MSU $25M to continue public health work

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint on Wednesday announced a $25 million grant to expand the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s public health presence in Flint through faculty, research and community collaborations.

The grant will support adding 18 new tenure track faculty members for research on health priorities identified by community members in meetings and surveys that include healthy behaviors, chronic disease, social determinants of health as well as interventions to reduce health disparities. The search for new faculty will be launched in the coming months, officials said.

"This is an extraordinary model," said MSU President Samuel Stanley during a virtual press conference announcing the grant. "This is a template for how we can engage in public health in a way that is very very effective." 

Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation, added that research and academia are important. 

"But when you combine research and academia with community, it's impactful," said White. "It can change lives. We've seen that for the past decade here with the MSU partnership with the Flint community and it's changing lives in Flint and across the state and the world."

The new grant to MSU will build upon Mott’s initial support for the college’s presence in Flint. Mott granted $12 million to MSU for the college’s expansion and the relocation of its public health program from East Lansing to Flint between 2011 and 2013. Mott also granted MSU $7.7 million to the Foundation for the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, a foundation working to reinvent Flint, to support the renovation of the former Flint Journal building to house the MSU program.

MSU’s Flint-based public health experts have implemented programs and research initiatives in the community since 2014 including Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s 2015 discovery of elevated blood lead levels in Flint’s children tied to a switch in the city’s water source and improper treatment of the water.

More:Quarter of Flint kids have elevated lead levels in blood, Cornell study finds

MSU’s researchers also have worked with community partners to develop programs to mitigate chronic diseases, identify environmental health risks and examine the social factors that influence community health. This includes work to reduce COVID-19 health disparities among African Americans by Debra Furr-Holden, MSU associate dean for public health integration.

“Our researchers have worked side-by-side with the Flint community to improve lives locally and in communities across the country,” said Aron Sousa, M.D., interim dean of the MSU College of Human Medicine. “Our work in Flint across the city’s water crisis, COVID-19, nutrition and mental health has become a national model."