Poverty Solutions partners to launch Rx Kids in Flint, offering relief from extreme poverty among families with infants

January 10, 2024

Enrollment for pregnant moms and newborns in Flint began Wednesday, January 10, as Rx Kids officially launched – the first citywide maternal and infant cash prescription program in the nation.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer attended the launch event in Flint, joined by RX Kids director Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, Associate Dean for Public Health in the College of Human Medicine and Director of the Michigan State University-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, and Luke Shaefer, Rx Kids co-director, and professor of public policy and director of Poverty Solutions

Rx Kids will begin to enroll every pregnant mom and newborn in the City of Flint – with no income restrictions or strings attached. Every mom will receive $1,500 during mid-pregnancy for food, prenatal care, rent, cribs, or whatever they need. After birth, families will receive $500/month for the baby’s first twelve months they can spend on needs such as formula, diapers, or childcare. 

Hanna-Attisha noted, “Flint Rx Kids is a prescription for health, hope, and opportunity. The program holds the promise to eradicate deep poverty among families with infants in Flint.” 

“You are all part of history today," she said. “Rx Kids has never been done in the U.S. before. It is the first program to target mommas and babies. This is something for so long I have pushed for. In a poor city it is hard to have good health outcomes. That’s not OK. RxKids is about doing better. And we will turn a moment into a movement.”

Shaefer has highlighted the power of a transformational community-driven initiative that builds on worldwide evidence. “Countries across the globe have adopted unconditional child cash benefits and seen child poverty plummet and health improve, with some of the biggest impacts for infants. The historic 2021 expanded Child Tax Credit had the same effects in the U.S., but it was not renewed. Flint is leading the nation by building on this evidence, and creating an easy-to-replicate playbook for how we care for our youngest kids.”

Whitmer told the crowd, “The state can’t be successful unless the state’s people are healthy, and especially our youngest citizens. I am proud that the State of Michigan is a partner. Kids in Flint need a fair shot at a future. This will affect them throughout their lives. This is the kind of investment where you can see the return across a lifetime.”

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Michigan State University Interim President Teresa Woodruff, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation President Ridgway White, also attended. 

White declared that Rx Kids will “Turn love for kids into action.”

Flint musical icon Mama Sol honored the landmark program, saying, “Imagine a world run by the dreamers.”

Tatiana, a new mom with an 8-day-old baby, attended, and told Hanna-Attisha that it is hard to work when you are pregnant. At first she didn't think it was real, and said it will really help the ends meet.

Neeley said, “We do know that this is a program of love and healthcare for families across Flint. We have a duty and responsibility to our families. Black and brown babies are four times more likely to have complications, mothers three times more likely. This is a responsibility we have. Flints is the start of great changes in America. We are offering a solution for the whole country.”

Rx Kids was developed in partnership with Flint parents, community organizations, and national experts. In addition to the MSU-Hurley Pediatric Public Health Initiative, Rx Kids partner organizations include University of Michigan Poverty Solutions, Greater Flint Health Coalition, and program administrator, GiveDirectly. 

As the first citywide program, robust research will evaluate the impact of Rx Kids on participant health and community-wide outcomes. Rx Kids aims to impact economic stability, housing and food security, health care utilization, maternal and infant health outcomes, child welfare, and family well-being and stress. Other potential impacts include community reinvestment, neighborhood safety, civic engagement, population stability, and societal savings. 

A public-private partnership, Rx Kids is made possible thanks to major support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the State of Michigan. Other founding funders include the Skyline Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, City of Flint, Doris Duke Foundation, Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation/Ajax Paving, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, Children’s Foundation, HAP CareSource, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Mott Children’s Health Center Roy Peterson Fund and Jeremy and Amy Piper Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Hurley Foundation, Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, and the generosity of individual donors. The project is estimated to cost $55 million for five years of newborns; over $43 million has been raised to date. 

To learn more about Rx Kids, visit FlintRxKids.com

See also: 5 things to know about Flint Rx Kids