Mott Foundation grants $25 million to MSU to expand public health initiatives in Flint

Two people walk in front of a building and a large Michigan State University sign.
Mother Sandra S. Jones, a Flint community partner in MSU’s public health work, talks with Todd Lucas, Ph.D., a C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health in MSU’s College of Human Medicine. Photo: Michigan State University

Flint, Michigan — The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has granted $25 million to expand the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s public health presence in Flint. The grant will create an endowed fund to increase public health faculty, academic research and community health collaborations.

“Expanding MSU’s public health program in Flint is a great thing for the community, and it also will yield important lessons for our state and nation as we struggle with both emergent and chronic health challenges,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation. “MSU’s work in Flint is a wonderful example of what can happen when physicians, researchers, residents and community advocates work together to improve health.”

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

“MSU has a mission to improve the lives of people through community-based research,” said President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “Our successful collaboration with the people of Flint has allowed our scientists to create a new model for positive public health outcomes, and we are grateful for the continued support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which will allow us to build on successes.”

Since 2014, MSU’s Flint-based public health experts have implemented programs and research initiatives in the community and beyond. A crucial example was the discovery in 2015 by Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D., M.P.H., 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. Since then, Hanna-Attisha has headed up work with the CDC’s Flint Lead Exposure Registry, successfully advocated for inclusion of the National Fruit and Vegetable Pediatric Prescription program in the 2018 Farm Bill, and testified before the U.S. Congress to help inform public health legislation.

MSU’s experts 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 work includes leadership by Debra Furr-Holden, Ph.D., throughout the pandemic and national advocacy for reducing COVID-19 health disparities among African Americans.

“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. We are grateful to the Mott Foundation for recognizing this innovative public health opportunity and supporting its further growth. The $25 million grant is the single largest award in the College of Human Medicine’s history.”

“This partnership between the community, Michigan State University, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation gives real credibility and credence to the work, leading to strengthened public health efforts in Flint,” said E. Yvonne Lewis, founder and CEO of the National Center for African American Health Consciousness. “This grant represents a beacon of hope that will help elevate community-led solutions to the issues we face.”

Mott’s support of public health in Flint already has had a positive economic impact on the city. According to an MSU study for the period 2015-2020, Mott’s initial $12 million in grants to MSU and $7.7 million grant to the FURC had a return of $93 million in economic output in Genesee County. The analysis also indicates that the work of the MSU Division of Public Health has resulted in 110 jobs over that five-year period. The latest grant to MSU is expected to add up to 200 new jobs.

The search for new faculty will be launched in the coming months. MSU, Mott and FURC are exploring options to expand the building to accommodate MSU’s anticipated growth.

See what other leaders are saying:

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow
“Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Clinic launched a program that I was so proud to support, in which families receive prescriptions that can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables at the Flint Farmer’s Market, right next door,” said Senator Stabenow. “In fact, Flint was the model for this innovative program, which I expanded nationwide in the 2018 Farm Bill.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee
“Providing high-quality and accessible health care is vital for the well-being of our community,” said Congressman Kildee. “This investment in MSU’s public health program in Flint will help make our community healthier and create jobs. I applaud Michigan State University and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for continuing to invest in public health in Flint, and I will continue working in Congress to bring additional resources back to mid-Michigan to support a healthy community.”

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley
“Michigan State University College of Human Medicine is an important public health partner in the city of Flint,” said Mayor Sheldon Neeley. “Dr. Furr-Holden has been a public health advisor for Flint and E. Yvonne Lewis has led the way with community outreach. The City of Flint is excited to continue this strong partnership with Michigan State University in improving the health of the Flint community.”

Interim Director of MSU Division of Public Health and Director of the Master of Public Health Program Wayne R. McCullough
“Being embedded in the Flint community allows Michigan State University public health faculty and researchers to understand the assets and needs of the community while working side-by-side with the people of Flint on issues important to them,” said Wayne McCullough, Ph.D., interim director, MSU Division of Public Health. “This important and significant grant allows us to enhance the research and education mission in service to Flint and to port learning to other parts of the state. This $25 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation provides a strengthened platform for interventions with a community-participatory public health model, maximizing impact and ultimately improving the overall health in Flint.”


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