25 March 2016

Systemic Failure and Health Catastrophe: The Final Report from the Flint Water Advisory Task Force

"The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) failed in its fundamental responsibility to effectively enforce drinking water regulations.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) failed to adequately and promptly act to protect public health. Both agencies, but principally the MDEQ, stubbornly worked to discredit and dismiss others’ attempts to bring the issues of unsafe water, lead contamination, and increased cases of Legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease) to light."

Matthew M Davis, MD, MAPP, Chris Kolb, Lawrence Reynolds, MD, Eric Rothstein, CPA, Ken Sikkema, Executive Summary Statement, Flint Water Advisory Task Force Final Report, 2016, p. 5

From the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and all the way to the Governor’s office, there are more than enough culpable participants in the failure to protect the health of Flint’s children. According to pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, who first alerted government officials of concerns for her patients, the lead-contaminated water could impact as many as 8000 children.1

The unimaginable happened. The repercussions are still unknown. But for persons engaged in disease surveillance, public health, health informatics and policy-making, the Final Report is a "must-read" to gain understanding of how separate individual and agency failures compounded to allow a catastrophic outcome. We recommend all practitioners review the report.

1. Abby Goodnough, Flint Weighs Scope of Harm to Children Caused by Lead in Water, nytimes.com, January 29, 2016

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