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'State of Flint Kids' looks at effects of water crisis and beyond

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Children in Flint faced a myriad of problems well before the city’s water crisis raised new fears of potential negative health effects from lead tainted drinking water.

The challenges faced by Flint kids and the progress that’s been made since the water crisis was the subject of a conference Friday.

Speakers at the “State of Flint Kids” conference acknowledge the problems the city’s children face go well beyond being exposed to tainted tap water.    

For example, 69% of Flint children five years old and under live below the poverty line compared with 26% statewide.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a leading advocate for Flint children. She told attendees at the conference that life expectancy in Genesee County varies widely, noting in one zip code the average life expectancy was 68.9 years compared to 83.3 years in another. 

“We need to all work together to make sure that the place of a child’s birth does not predict where they end up,” says Hanna-Attisha.

On the positive side, since Flint’s water crisis, 98% of the city’s children now have access to health insurance.  

Dr. Sharon Swindell is the president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She says the problems faced by Flint kids are also faced by many Michigan children. Swindell says that makes this an issue as big as the state’s crumbling roads.

“There are many potholes on the road to adulthood for children in this state. And it is equally if not more important to fix and maintain those roads as well,” says Swindell.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.