New health initiative in Flint in wake of water crisis - WNEM TV 5

New health initiative in Flint in wake of water crisis

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The city of Flint has been selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a partner organization called the Reinvestment Fund to take part in a health initiative in the wake of the ongoing water crisis. It is called the new Invest Health initiative and it is aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive.  Specific attention is devoted to community projects that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.

Flint was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities that applied to the initiative. Cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 were asked to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related.  

“The water crisis has devastated Flint residents in profound ways, placing them at severe risk for diminished physical and behavioral health,” said Debra Furr-Holden, PhD, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Endowed Professor of Public Health, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, who represents the team’s institutional anchor, MSU.   

Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health and a lack of investment, according to the program organizers. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies. The program has the potential to fundamentally transform the way Flint improves opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions,. organizers say.  

“With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments,” said Amanda High, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned and spur creative collaboration.”  

The Flint Invest Health Project Team is multi-sector, strongly community-based, and racially diverse, reflecting the community’s population. In addition to Dr. Furr-Holden, the team includes Mark Valacak, MPH, Genesee County Health Department health officer; E. Yvonne Lewis, Genesee Health Plan outreach director and founder/CEO of the National Center for African-American Health Consciousness, Suzanne Selig, PhD, MPH, MSW, professor and director of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Michigan-Flint, and Dr. Kent Key, deputy executive director of the Community Based Organization Partners.

Project teams will travel to Philadelphia for a kick-off meeting on June 7th and will meet regularly to share lessons learned throughout the 18-month project.  Flint joins, Lansing, Pontiac and Grand Rapids as Michigan cities involved in the effort. A full list of awardees and more information is available at  

Reinvestment Fund is a catalyst for change in low-income communities. We integrate data, policy and strategic investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. Using analytical and financial tools, we bring high-quality grocery stores, affordable housing, schools and health centers to the communities that need better access—creating anchors that attract investment over the long term and help families lead healthier, more productive lives. Learn more at

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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