US Health and Human Service Awards $500,000 in funding to Flint Health Centers


FLINT, Mich. – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell today announced $500,000 in funding to help two area health centers increase and expand activities in response to the lead contamination of Flint’s water.

Following a tour of the Hamilton Community Health Network, Inc. (HCHN), Burwell and HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Nicole Lurie, who is leading the federal response and recovery effort in Flint, announced that HCHN and Genesee Health System (GHS) will each receive $250,000 in emergency supplemental funding to hire additional personnel and provide more lead testing, treatment, outreach, and education to meet the increased need for health services in the Flint community.

“We are focused on supporting the people of Flint by helping to ensure they have access to clean water and the health services they need to mitigate the effects of lead exposure,” said Burwell. “This additional funding will allow health centers in Flint to enhance their lead testing efforts and quickly hire more staff for community outreach and to better meet the needs of the people they serve.”

In addition to touring HCHN, Burwell met with community members and elected officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, about the federal government’s response and recovery effort. The focus of the federal response is to work at every level of government to support state and local officials in ensuring Flint has access to safe water, and there is a clear understanding of the impact of lead exposure on residents’ health in order to mitigate the damage.

“Primary care, which includes ongoing lead screening, follow up, and continued attention to a child’s development, is important for children in Flint,” Lurie added. “The funding we’re announcing today is one of many ways we are supporting health recovery for the community, and we will continue to look across federal programs, including in health, nutrition and education, to assist the people of Flint.”

Last week, during a meeting with members of House Democratic leadership and the Michigan delegation, Burwell and Lurie confirmed that HHS anticipates being able to quickly approve a number of requests, including a major Medicaid coverage expansion for children and pregnant women in Flint that would include blood-lead level monitoring, behavioral health services nutritional support, and comprehensive targeted case management, among other services.

More than 1,300 health centers, supported by Health Resources and Services Administration, operate approximately 9,000 service delivery sites in every U.S. state, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Pacific Basin. These health centers employ more than 170,000 staff who provide care for nearly 23 million patients. For millions of Americans, including some of the most vulnerable individuals and families, health centers are the essential medical home where they find services that promote health, diagnose and treat disease and disability, and help them cope with environmental challenges that put them at risk.

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Water A Necessary Resource But Not Available to All

Over two billion people in the world are unable to secure either access to safe water, or enough water to survive, over 4,000 Children die every day due to lack of clean water through dehydration or diseases.  Water-related diseases that affect these children and their families include malaria, schistosomiasis, salmonella, dysentery, and giardia.

Drinking_waterMore than half of the beds in medical facilities around the world are occupied by people with diarrheal diseases. Additionally, all of these diseases are treatable through having sanitary water and water sources.  Most of these diseases require something as basic as chlorinated filters or simple antibiotics to prevent ailments.  Scarcities in access to clean water however is an issue that is still a struggle for many organizations around the world.

Efforts through activism have been approaching this issue through awareness and involvement.  The World Health Organization (WHO) have declared the decade of 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action: Water for Life.  Through these efforts, a report in 2011 states that 64% of the world’s population has had improved access to sanitary conditions.  Unfortunately this still leaves over one third of the world without improved access.  Other organizations have been making strides at resolving this discrepancy.

The Food & Water Watch work to educate those that actively seek information on the internet with global figures on the issues pertaining to our daily sustenance.  Action Against Hunger educates and acts in emergencies to install storage and reservoirs, decontaminate water supplies, and repair/build pipe water to villages and care centers.  The Water Project works to educate and implement solutions to the water crisis.  For those that wish to get involved further with the water project, one can start a fundraising page through The Water Project’s website.

There has also been numerous water challenges that have occurred to spur conversation and action toward ending the water crisis.  The Water Project has introduced a two week challenge, daring people to forgo any liquid but water and donating the resulting savings toward helping end the water crisis.  Here in Denver, Colorado, Global Health Connections has challenged sixth graders in the Denver/Aurora Schools to come up with ways to end facets of the water crisis through innovative and creative ways.  They have mentors help the youth think critically about the issue, and develop their ideas into tangible and sustainable solutions.

Efforts like this to rouse a new generation to become globally-minded and work to help end an issue that will continue to plague future generations unchecked.  To get involved with these organizations, or see how your organization can foster support, follow any of the links above.

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