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MSU, Hurley center to fight lead poisoning in Flint

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

An initiative to moderate the effects of lead poisoning in Flint’s children will be announced Thursday by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, according to Hurley Medical Center.

Hanna-Attisha, the Hurley Medical Center pediatrician who discovered elevated lead levels in Flint children in August after the city began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, will lead the project to be announced at the Thursday press conference in Flint.

“If we don’t do something for the children now, or very shortly, we’re going to end up having these children in 10, 15, 20 years become added statistics for the consequences of lead poisoning,” Hanna-Attisha said.

In collaboration with Hanna-Attisha and the medical school, experts in pediatrics, child development, psychology, toxicology and other disciplines will develop interventions to help the children recover from lead poisoning.

The Genesee County Health Department, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and MSU Extension will be included in the collaboration. The initiative will be supported by the MSU College of Human Medicine Division of Public Health located in downtown Flint.

Dr. Aron Sousa, interim dean of the MSU College of Human Medicine, said the Flint initiative will be unprecedented in recent history because of the scale of lead exposure in the community. The project provides an opportunity to develop a model for dealing with lead poisoning at the community level, she said.

“One of the things that this group will be working on is trying to figure out which interventions are working,” Sousa said Wednesday, noting that the MSU College of Education will be heavily involved in the collaboration. “You have to figure out whether what you’re doing is having an impact.”

The exposure will have long-term effects on the children’s health if steps aren’t taken immediately to provide much-needed services in the impoverished and crime-ridden Flint community, where children faced significant health risks even before the lead crises.

“These kids need early intervention services, they need nutrition support services,” Attisha-Hanna said. “They need universal preschool, they need all of these evidence-based wrap-around services now, so that we don’t see those consequences in 10, 15 years.

“That’s what we’re asking for (from) state government, federal government, philanthropy. We want to have these programs built for our kids to mitigate this exposure.”