Dean's Update

January 12, 2024 - Aron Sousa, MD

A group photo of the Rx Kids team.

Above: The Rx Kids team. (Aron is the one holding the bear.)


This Wednesday, the community of Flint celebrated the launch of Rx Kids, the first citywide cash prescription program for mothers and babies in the country. Child poverty is highest during pregnancy and in the early years of life when parents may not be able to work, childcare is hard to arrange, and costs are high. By eliminating deep maternal and infant poverty, Rx Kids is boldly prescribing health, hope, and opportunity during the key first year of life. Starting January 1 of this year, Rx Kids is open to family and baby residents of Flint.

The program is audacious, and based on global and national data, it will decrease child poverty and improve health. During the pandemic, there was a remarkable natural experiment when congress expanded the child tax credit and then reduced it again after the pandemic cooled. No-strings-attached cash was provided to millions of families with children. Evidence from the short-lived expanded child tax credit reveals that reducing food insecurity and financial hardship improved health for children and parentsimproved school performance, and reduced the incidence of child abuse.

Building on the success of the expanded child tax credit and the need to further advance science to inform policy, Rx Kids has raised $43 million so far, which will ensure the program runs for at least four years. Some of the funding is for science evaluating the program. The Rx Kids research team will track many outcomes – health care utilization, maternal and infant health, child development, family wellbeing, child welfare, civic engagement, and more – for the children, parents, and the community during the cash payments and after. I’ve got a bit more to say about this program at the end of the update.

Each year, the college comes together with the Office of Health Sciences and the nursing, veterinary, and osteopathic colleges to celebrate MLK Day. This year, the speaker is Dr. Anthony Jack, associate professor of Higher Education Leadership at Boston University, and he will discuss how class divides a campus and how to level the playing field. The event is Thursday, January 18, at Conrad Hall on campus in East Lansing. RSVP here.

This is our 60th anniversary year! Over the course of 2024, we will be holding events around the state celebrating our history and the great work of our people. We’ve had some success with Town Hall events tied to Alumni Weekend and the expansion of the former Flint Journal Building, so we are going to try for similar events in each of our communities this year. Check out the plans here. We have a 60th Anniversary power point template, signature line, and graphics available with a new college video!

I had a quick chat with Mona after the Rx Kids event, and the event was awesome – Governor Whitmer, President Woodruff, Mott Foundation President Ridgway White, College of Human Medicine Charles Stewart Mott Professor of Public Health Mona Hanna-Attisha (CHM ’02), and the BABIES were all brilliant! Later in the afternoon when I talked with Mona, she was struck by how Rx Kids has led the community to circle around the families of these babies beyond the program. There are Flint knitters making hats for babies, the library will have special programming, and folks are thinking about the educational futures of these children in a way that was not happening before.

And, that community engagement and spirit is what strikes me as such potent medicine for treating the ills of poverty. The money is necessary to address the health consequences of poverty but so is love and support in the community. When we were designing the college’s Flint expansion with the Flint hospitals and the Mott Foundation fifteen years ago, it would have been ridiculous to suggest the possibility of a program like Rx Kids. And, during the water crisis, when Dr. Hanna-Attisha held her press conference to announce she and her team had found increasing levels of lead in Flint’s children, it was impossible to imagine Flint could pull off a program as positive and hopeful as Rx Kids. But the right people, gathering as a team and meaningfully engaging with the community as collaborators, can make the impossible possible. Sixty years in, we are that kind of community-based medical school. Our people and their community partners make the impossible happen.

Serving the people with you,


Aron Sousa, MD, FACP
Dean, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

60th Anniversary logo.


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