Flint, MI – The Ruth Mott Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to Michigan State University for Rx Kids, an initiative that will provide cash payments to Flint mothers from pregnancy through the first year of their child’s life.

The donation comes as the program, led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, works toward an overall fundraising goal of $55 million.

Hanna-Attisha told Flint Beat the fundraising goal was set with the idea of financing Rx Kids for its first five years, beginning in 2024.

“We need $11 million a year to do this program,” Hanna-Attisha said. “$9 million is for the direct cash transfers — that is the money that will go to pregnant moms and babies … assuming 1,200 births a year … another $1 million for research, and another $1 million for the operations and the programming and all that other stuff.”

Hanna-Attisha went on to explain that Rx Kids aims to disrupt child poverty, and thereby its related health disparities, by providing all expectant mothers in Flint with up to $7,500.

That money, she said, will be broken down in a one-time payment of $1,500 during pregnancy followed by $500 per month until the child turns 1 year old.

The Ruth Mott Foundation’s $1.2 million donation is the largest single grant commitment in the organization’s history, according to the Foundation’s July 20 press release on its contribution.

“We’re incredibly proud to support this innovative citywide approach to investing in Flint children and families, especially in the wake of the water crisis and a global pandemic,” Raquel Thueme, president of the Ruth Mott Foundation, said in the release. “North Flint residents told us to focus on Youth and Economic Opportunity and Rx Kids fits squarely within those two priority areas.”

According to U.S. Census data available through the Ruth Mott Foundation’s dashboard, approximately one in every two children in Flint grows up in poverty, and the childhood poverty rate in some north Flint neighborhoods is as high as 80 percent.

Hanna-Attisha noted Rx Kids looks to tackle such poverty as its the “root cause of so many of our inequities.”

“When you’re exposed to poverty when you’re young, when it’s chronic poverty, when it’s concentrated poverty — which means when all your neighbors are poor — that all leads to worse outcomes,” she said.

Those outcomes can be health-related, she explained, but also educational and economic.

“So we are laser, surgically-focused on this window [of pregnancy into a child’s first year] because it’s … the window where families are most poor, and where it has the greatest kind of implications for children’s health and development,” she said.

Hanna-Attisha estimated that the Ruth Mott Foundation’s contribution brings fundraising efforts for Rx Kids to almost $35 million of the program’s $55 million goal.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....