Dr. Debra Furr-Holden

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black residents in Flint were 73 times more likely to die than white residents. With the hard work of community leaders and by recognizing disparities early on, Flint's numbers quickly improved. “Zip code is a stronger predictor of how long you can expect to live and the quality of life you can expect to live than even your genetic code," said MSU public health leader and Flint resident Dr. Debra Furr-Holden. 

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Back to school kid with mask

With Flint Community Schools students returning back to school soon, official guidance on masks has yet to be released. MSU Public Health leader Dr. Debra Furr-Holden believes that both students and school staff members schould all continue to wear masks - no matter their vaccination status. She said, "Given that so many young people aren't even eligible for vaccines it's important that we do everything that we can to protect and preserve their health." 

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HFRCC

To help sustain the health of the Flint community, Dr. Debra Furr-Holden helped launch the Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center (HFRCC) Flint Community Webinars to address emerging concerns about COVID-19. The goal of the series is to give community members a chance to raise questions and to provide information on (1) how to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19, (2) current trends in the spread of the virus, and (3) plans for reopening Flint and monitoring contact tracing. These webinars include multiple city and non-governmental agencies and service providers.

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Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who has experience with public health emergencies, joined Detroit Today to share her thoughts on the state of the pandemic. “We have to proactively invest in public health infrastructure,” says Hanna-Attisha. "While the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic and racial inequalities, the medical community is finally taking these disparities seriously.”

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Dr. Todd Lucas

Dr. Todd Lucas, a team of Michigan State University researchers, and their partners are leading a $1.2M NIH study with a pair of formidable goals: communicating effectively about the value of COVID-19 antibody testing and better understanding why COVID-19 causes a disproportionate number of African Americans to suffer severe cases and deaths. The project is part of the NIH Serological Sciences Network for COVID-19 initiative.

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Flint river

Public health officials in Michigan are turning to trusted community leaders to help spread the word about the new vaccines.

"As a public health professional, I see the important need for prevention. I see the important need for a safe and credible vaccine to be distributed and administered equitably in our community," shared Dr. Debra Furr-Holden. But at the same time, "relationships are built on trust, and trust takes time," she shared with NBC News.

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Flint

There is still much work to do to slow the spread of COVID-19 and roll out a vaccine, but Dr. Debra Furr-Holden believes this one crucial step in eliminating the disparity in Flint means there is hope. African Americans are 60 percent of the population in Flint, in March they accounted for more than 85 percent of positive COVID-19 cases and 91-percent of the COVID-19 deaths. That has turned around drastically. By the end of September, the data showed that African Americans make up 38-percent of cases and 50-percent of deaths. 

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Flint Registry

The $1.4 trillion federal COVID-19 spending bill includes funding to continue the Flint Registry. The registry has over 10,500 families signed up to receive advice and referrals for services that combat the effects of lead poisoning suffered during the Flint water crisis. The program has completed 13,500 referrals for health care, nutrition, early education, lead elimination programs and more. “The Flint Registry has improved the lives of thousands of individuals, and we look forward to helping thousands more and sharing our lessons with similarly-impacted communities,” said Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. 

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Lead in water

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden discusses what she calls “one of the biggest acts of environmental racism in my lifetime” and why similar disparities are now being seen during the coronavirus pandemic. "We have seen in COVID - that the disparities that already existed were amplified. What we have tried to do with the task force is develop the solutions that match the level of the problem." 

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E. Yvonne Lewis

CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez traveled to Flint to talk to residents about how the water crisis has impacted their views on the coronavirus vaccine. "This is a global pandemic with a local impact," shares E. Yvonne Lewis, moderator of the Flint Community COVID-19 weekly webinar series.

"I am a real advocate for people understanding the information so they can make a quality decision," shared Lewis.

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City of Flint

Covid cases are surging, forcing community leaders to rethink strategies to reduce vaccine misinformation and barriers. “My city is on fire. Covid-19 is on fire,” said Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions and associate dean for public health integration at Michigan State University, as she talks with The Guardian about new efforts to reduce Covid numbers.

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