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Flint Local NewsCity of Flint residents who are pregnant are now eligible for Rx...

City of Flint residents who are pregnant are now eligible for Rx Kids

Flint, Michigan – On January 10, at Hurley Children’s Hospital, a significant event took place with Governor Gretchen Whitmer, MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff, Dean Aron Sousa of MSU College of Human Medicine, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation President Ridgway White. They launched Rx Kids, a program aimed at helping Flint’s pregnant women and newborns.

Helping Flint families with newborns

All expecting mothers and newborns in Flint can join Rx Kids without worrying about how much money they make. During mid-pregnancy, moms get $1,500, and after the baby is born, families receive $500 every month for the first year. This program aims to eliminate extreme poverty for families with babies in Flint by giving parents the ability to decide how to spend the money, whether on baby formula, rent, diapers, childcare, or other essentials.

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Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, who is the associate dean for public health at the College of Human Medicine and also leads the Michigan State University-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, is steering Rx Kids. This initiative is more than just financial support; it’s a way to bring health, hope, and new opportunities to the community.

“This first-in-the-nation initiative boldly reimagines how society supports families and children—how we care for each other,” said Hanna-Attisha. “Rx Kids embodies Flint’s can-do spirit of not only dreaming but also making what seems impossible a reality to ensure that every child will flourish. Rx Kids is powered by science and driven by community.”

“This collaborative effort will provide Flint’s babies with an extraordinary start to their lives and a remarkable example of what a community, philanthropy, and a medical school can do in partnership,” said College of Human Medicine Dean Sousa. “We are deeply thankful for the vision of Ridgway White and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for their unwavering support for MSU College of Human Medicine’s public health initiatives in Flint.”

Flint is chosen for the program due to high poverty

Flint is the focus of the Rx Kids program because it’s the poorest city in Michigan and one of the poorest in the U.S. About 70% of children in Flint grow up in poverty, which is five times higher than the national average. Each year, around 1,200 children are born in Flint, many into families facing extreme difficulties. The time before and just after birth is crucial for a baby’s health and development, and it’s also when families often struggle with money the most.

“Investing in strong families is an investment in Flint’s future,” Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said. “Thanks to Dr. Mona, Flint is leading the way on a transformational model of care for families that I hope will spread across our nation. Rx Kids will support mothers and children in Flint when they are most vulnerable. This blessing will lift families out of poverty and improve health outcomes. Our prayer is that we will improve maternal and infant health, and help Flint families raise strong, healthy babies.”

The development of Rx Kids was a collaborative effort involving Flint parents, local community groups, and national experts. Partners in the program, alongside the MSU-Hurley Pediatric Public Health Initiative, include University of Michigan Poverty Solutions, Greater Flint Health Coalition, and GiveDirectly, which administers the program.

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“For more than 13 years, GiveDirectly has helped give unconditional cash transfers to people in need across the country and around the world — we look forward to bringing that expertise to support families in Flint,” said GiveDirectly U.S. Country Director Dustin Palmer. “Research shows that cash support during pregnancy and infancy results in healthier pregnancies, improved early childhood development, and even sustained impacts into adulthood.”

First program of its kind in Flint

As the first program of its kind in the city, Rx Kids will undergo thorough research to assess its effects on health and overall community outcomes. The program is set to influence various areas such as economic stability, housing, food security, healthcare use, maternal and infant health, child welfare, as well as the overall well-being and stress levels of families. Other potential benefits include improved community reinvestment, neighborhood safety, civic participation, population stability, and cost savings for society.

Luke Shaefer, co-director of Rx Kids and a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, emphasized the significance of this community-led initiative. He pointed out that similar programs around the world have successfully reduced child poverty and enhanced health, particularly for infants. Shaefer noted the example of the 2021 expanded Child Tax Credit in the U.S., which had similar positive impacts but was not continued. He praised Flint for leading the way by applying this global evidence and creating a model that could be easily replicated for the care of young children.

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The cost of this project is estimated at $55 million over five years, with more than $43 million already raised. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the State of Michigan have been key supporters of Rx Kids. Other foundational backers include Skyline Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, City of Flint, Doris Duke Foundation, Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation/Ajax Paving, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, and many others including individual donors.

Residents of Flint who are expecting or have had a baby since January 1, 2024, can sign up for the program online at FlintRxKids.com.