In April 2014, the Flint Water Crisis made headlines across the United States. Four years later, the issue of lead-contaminated water in Flint, Mich., continues to raise questions about health and water access for city residents.
Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Flint pediatrician and MSU associate professor, is spearheading the Flint Registry project to distribute information about community health resources to city residents. The Registry is funded by a $14.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Centers for Disease Control’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program. After a full review, the Registry has been endorsed by the Flint Community Ethics Review Board.
Joining Hanna-Attisha are Professors Geri Alumit Zeldes, Ross Chowles, Kami Silk and Maria Lapinski. Last summer, Silk and Lapinski collected preliminary focus group data for the Registry. Their goal was to gain insight into which types of media messages would be most effective in reaching the Flint community to raise awareness about the available health resources for those affected by unsafe water.
Born and Raised
Raised in Flint, Zeldes was eager to offer her expertise to the project and to be a representative for city residents. Her role in the project is two-fold—assist the communication team in crafting messages for the community and provide feedback on the content that already exists.
“The Flint Water Crisis touches a lot of people that I know,” said Zeldes. “What’s really important to researchers and creative people here is that [the Registry] extends our reach to populations who really need it. Flint is a community that has been in the spotlight for four years. When you have such a community, they are adverse to communication and government. They want to know what the Flint Registry is doing with their information.”
What does the Registry do with participants’ information? Researchers will use the information to collect data and create reports that track and assess the health impacts on those affected by the water crisis. Over 2,200 people are currently enrolled in the Registry, and the identities of those who choose to join are anonymous.
“[This project] is exciting, and it’s exciting to be in Flint right now,” said Zeldes. “[Working on the Registry] gave me an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the downtown area, and it felt so new and modern. The city of Flint is remaking itself.”
Part of the Solution
Communication Manager for the MSU College of Human Medicine Ebony Stith serves as the Flint Registry’s communications manager. Stith also grew up in Flint, and she and her family were personally affected by the Flint Water Crisis. Stith decided she wanted to be part of the solution, so she applied to become part of the Registry’s communication team.
“After being in the newsroom and reporting the devastation, I decided to take a leap of faith and be actively involved in the recovery process,” Stith said. “I can make a visible difference and help us recover.”
Stith expressed her excitement about collaborating with Zeldes and Chowles to improve communication tactics surrounding the Registry.
“Their advice has helped me a lot to create a marketing plan,” said Stith. “I was pleased their suggestions lined up with the direction I was heading. I greatly value their feedback and plan to implement their advice.”
The Flint Registry will launch publically this year, and bring legislators, community members and the Flint Registry advisory board members together. A two-year marketing plan is also in the works, thanks to recommendations produced by the collaboration.
The Flint Registry is still accepting early participants. If you know of individuals exposed to the water in Flint April 2014-October 2015, please direct them to FlintRegistry.org.
By Kristina Pierson