Previewing The Flint Registry With Dr. Mona

Jan 17, 2019

After a year of preparation and pre-launch, the Flint Reistry will go live January 18. The registry aims to connect those impacted by the Flint Water Crisis with the appropriate resources. WKAR's Karel Vega spoke with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, leader of the Flint Registry to discuss the organization going live.

More information about the Flint Registry can be found here.


VEGA: For WKAR News, I’m Karel Vega. One of the most pivotal moments in what is now known as the Flint Water Crisis was a press conference held in September 2015 at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint. The speaker of this conference Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha; the subject – the discovery of alarmingly high blood lead levels in the city’s children. Dr. Hanna-Attisha has since gone on to become a key figure in Flint’s restoration and she’s now leading the Flint Registry, an effort aimed at connecting people exposed to lead tainted water in the city to programs to help manage their health. After a year in development, the Flint Registry goes fully live this month. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha joins us via Skype to talk about the Flint Registry. Doctor, thank you for speaking with us.

HANNA-ATTISHA: It’s great to be with you.

VEGA: For starters, how will the Flint Registry work?
HANNA-ATTISHA: So, the Flint Registry is a voluntary registry. It is open to anybody who was exposed to the crisis. So, if you lived in Flint, worked in Flint, went to school, daycare in Flint, you can sign up for the registry. Once you sign up for the registry, you’ll answer lots of different questions to see how you are doing. And then really, the goal of the registry is to get you connected to the resources to mitigate the impact of this crisis and to improve health and development. So, there are a lot of registries out there and we’ve been talking to folks all over the country, especially the World Trade Center Registry. A lot of these registries were built to just really track folks and follow them long term after a crisis, but our registry is a little different. The goal of our registry is to improve outcomes of the people that were exposed to this crisis by connecting them with things like Medicaid and the Lead Safe Home Program and early childhood resources. All the wonderful things we have been able to bring into this city we want people to take advantage of and that’s really what this registry is all about.

VEGA: One of the stipulations in the registry is that it’s for people exposed to Flint water from 2014 to 2015. Why that span?

HANNA-ATTISHA: The registry is a grant from the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they stipulated the time period of exposure. And that time period is the time that we were on Flint water, and that was from April of 2014 to October of 2015. And we know that that’s not when the crisis ended, that’s not when lead exposure ended. People didn’t even really know that there was lead in water during that 18 months, but that is the – folks had to have been exposed to the water during that 18 months when we were on the Flint river, when it was untreated, when we know there was that lead in the water.

VEGA: If you’re just tuning in, we’re speaking with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, leader of the Flint Registry about the program going fully live this month. Say someone thinks they may be exposed, but they’re not sure. How do they go about finding out?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Yeah, so we’re not asking for proof of exposure, you don’t have to submit any kind of lead level or water lead level. The only out of station – the only eligibility is that you lived in Flint, worked in Flint, went to school in Flint, and then you were essentially exposed and you consumed this water and you will be eligible for all the resources that we may be able to connect you to. So, there is no necessity to prove that you had consequences. The whole goal of this registry is to find out how you’re doing and really to prevent any consequences. 

VEGA: On that note, what is the prognosis for kids who have been exposed to lead in the city’s water?

HANNA-ATTISHA: That is exactly what this registry is trying to answer. So, I think every day, people ask me how is Flint doing? How are the kids of Flint doing? And I can tell you how the kids in the clinic are doing this morning, but we need a tool: a data driven, population level tool to answer that question. And that’s exactly what the registry hopes to accomplish. The more people that are signed up for the registry, the more powerful tool this will be to answer that question – to answer how is the health of Flint residents? How are the children doing? And once that is up and live and there are a lot of people enrolled in it, we’ll be able to more objectively answer that question. And once we have those answers, then that will drive our planning and our advocacy in terms of the resources we may need to bring in because of the issues we identify. 

VEGA: As you said, this program is not mandatory, but have you had any trouble with people who may be lost their trust in any sort of program enrolling in anything after the crisis happened?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Of course. The story of Flint is a story of loss of trust. The people of Flint rightfully have lost trust in any institution that is guarded to protect their health and safety because they were betrayed by every institution that was charged to protect them so the building of trust is a big part of our work and that’s why the registry from the onset has been community informed, community participatory, and community driven. About a year ago, we launched pre-enrollment of the registry where about 6,000 people have pre-enrolled, and that process of pre-enrollment allowed people to provide feedback and input so their voice was at the table. We’ve also had many, many focus groups. We have a very active community advisory board meeting. We have parents who are part of this process and even children who are telling us what they want in this registry. So, this registry was made in Flint, by Flint residents. It is physically based in Flint. We have built a Flint workforce and all of that is to bolster the trust of the community in this registry which is there’s.

VEGA: We’ve been speaking with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the MSU Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Health Initiative about the Flint Registry going fully live this month. The program will connect people exposed to lead-tainted water with programs to manage their health. Dr. Hanna-Attisha, thank you for speaking with us.

HANNA-ATTISHA: It’s great to be with you, thank you.

VEGA: For WKAR, I’m Karel Vega.