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Aug. 1, 2017

Public registry aims to connect Flint residents to needed care

Flint residents will soon be able to participate in a voluntary registry that will help connect them to programs designed to minimize the effects of lead on their health.

Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Michigan State University researcher and Hurley Children’s Hospital physician who discovered increased lead levels in the young patients she was treating, is leading the effort.

MSU will receive approximately $3.2 million this year to begin establishing a registry of residents who were exposed to lead-contaminated water from the Flint Water System during 2014-2015. The funds are the first installment of a four-year, $14.4 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help build and maintain the Flint Lead Exposure Registry. Funding for the project was included in December 2016 legislation championed by Michigan's congressional leaders.

“The number one goal of this registry is to improve the lives of individuals exposed to the Flint water,” said Hanna-Attisha, who is also the director of the MSU and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative. “It’s urgent that we continue to identify and connect people to services.”

Enrollment for the registry will start sometime next year. The project will work to link key participant data including exposure, health and childhood developmental milestones to various community intervention services such as health coverage, early intervention, nutrition support, and water and home lead elimination and then track the information over a four-year period. The information collected will guide future recommendations at the state and local level to help the city and its residents not only recover, but also thrive.

“This registry is an example of our long-term commitment to the residents of Flint to work together to build healthier futures and find viable public health solutions that will lead to a stronger community,” said Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University. “Through outreach and partnerships funded by organizations like the CDC, we can continue to make positive and long-lasting differences."

In collaboration with Flint residents and informed by national experts, including the 15-year World Trade Center Registry, MSU and Hanna-Attisha’s team will work with the Greater Flint Health Coalition, City of Flint and many other community, academic, governmental and information technology organizations to launch the registry.

Once the registry is available, Hanna-Attisha said that an active campaign to enroll participants will begin and residents will be contacted directly to encourage participation. People will be able to sign up over the phone, online, in-person or by mail.

“There are approximately 100,000 residents in the city of Flint and even more people who were exposed to the water,” she said. “We hope to enroll as many as possible, including those who moved out of the city.”

According to the CDC, there is no safe level of lead and lead exposure can cause a variety of health problems. Lead is particularly concerning in children due to its serious effects on growth, IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Support programs can mitigate the impact of exposure.

“Reducing the impact of lead exposure on families, as well as decreasing current lead exposure is our priority,” Hanna-Attisha said. “Registry efforts will strive to make Flint one of the first cities in the nation to eliminate all sources of lead exposure.”