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Caring for Kids: How the U.S. Senate, builders and nonprofit leaders support kids’ health initiative

July 20, 2018

Originally posted in Crain's Detroit Business on July 2, 2018.

On his monthly radio program, Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation President and CEO Larry Burns talks to community, government and business leaders about issues related to children’s health and wellness in Michigan.

Guests in June included U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Doug Maibach, executive vice president, Barton Malow Co.; and Donna Murray-Brown, president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

The hourlong show typically airs at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month on WJR 760AM. Here’s a summary of the show that aired June 26 and was recorded at the Mackinac Policy Conference; listen to the entire episode, and archived episodes, at chmfoundation.org/caringforkids.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan


Sen. Debbie Stabenow is the first woman from Michigan elected to the U.S. Senate.

Larry Burns: You’re on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. What led you to become a champion for better child nutrition?

Sen. Debbie Stabenow: One of the most important issues for children is access to healthy food. One out of six children in Michigan doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. You can’t grow up in a healthy way or focus in school if you’re hungry.

I’ve been focused on making sure that children are getting healthy meals at school. And for many children, their only meals are breakfast and lunch at school — what do they do in the summer? We have an extensive program where children get at least one healthy meal in the summer.

Also, one thing I’m proud of is expanding school and community gardens. Kids are more likely to eat vegetables or fruit if they help grow them.

Burns: Nutrition and wellness is one of our Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation priority areas; we’re providing a major grant through Gleaners that gives milk to kids.

Stabenow: That is terrific. When we first heard what happened in Flint — the horrific situation of lead poisoning there — I talked with Dr. Mona (Hanna-Attisha), who was involved in bringing this to light, and asked what mitigates lead in children’s bodies. She said good nutrition, including milk. I was proud that the Michigan Milk Producers Association reached out; they were the first agricultural group to give donations in Flint.

Burns: The Quality Care for Moms and Babies Act improves maternity care for women. Tell us more about this initiative that you sponsored.

Stabenow: We don’t have quality standards in Medicaid. Low-income moms getting their health care through Medicaid don’t have the same quality standards for prenatal care, maternity care and so on that we do for other systems. I’ve been working hard through the Moms and Babies Act to put in quality standards.

Low-income moms that are already struggling can know that they’re going to have quality standards to make sure their health and their baby’s health will be maximized.

Burns: How is the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) working, in your opinion?

Stabenow: We call it MIChild in Michigan, and we have 100,000 children that get their health care through this insurance system. It’s for moms and dads that are working in jobs that don’t provide health care. Normally, CHIP is something that is authorized for one or two years at a time. We were able to get a 10-year extension.

Doug Maibach, executive vice president, Barton Malow Co.


Doug Maibach is executive vice president of Barton Malow Co.

Larry Burns: Barton Malow Co. is 92 years old; tell us how the company has evolved.

Doug Maibach: We describe ourselves as a construction services company. What we do is broad: we build. Our core purpose talks about building with the American spirit: people, projects and communities. People will recognize us because of our projects — Little Caesars Arena or the Children’s Hospital expansion. It’s good to be known for that, but those other pillars are really important to us; we’re building communities also.

Burns: What is the footprint of your projects?

Maibach: We’re based in Southfield. We have 17 offices across North America, from Mexico to Canada and places in between, but predominantly on the eastern half of the United States.

We’re a big player in the auto industry. Health care and hospitals are another major area, as well as education. People recognize us for sports and for special events facilities. One of the more fun things we’ve gotten involved in in the past few years is in the entertainment world, working with the big three in Orlando. These are things you hop on that you can only imagine what it takes to build.

Burns: Tell us about the new Children’s Hospital of Michigan tower.

Maibach: It’s a big building — 250,000 square feet. The new emergency center is one of the busiest in the nation. There is an imaging center with better diagnostic tools now, the neonatal intensive care center, pediatric intensive care, new operating rooms and a two-story lobby that’s grand.

The families are the motivation behind the expansion. We built family-friendly rooms; parents can sleep with their loved ones getting the great care Children’s Hospital provides.

Burns: You’re on the board of the Children’s Center of Wayne County; tell us about the Center.

Maibach: Children’s Center of Wayne County is the largest children’s-orientated family services organization in the state. It deals predominantly with mental health issues with children. They’re unique in that they don’t just look at the child, they look at the family and those around the child when they’re providing the care.

I got involved there over 20 years ago and through that engagement, helping them build a new center, I became the chair of that building and grounds committee. I ultimately became the president of the board. Today, I’m back to being a board member, helping in every way I can.

Donna Murray-Brown, president and CEO, Michigan Nonprofit Association


Donna Murray-Brown is president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

Larry Burns: Tell us about the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

Donna Murray-Brown: Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) is a statewide membership organization that serves nonprofits — a nonprofit serving nonprofits. We provide resources, tools and advocacy to create a strong operating environment for social impact organizations to do the great work that they do every day. We have over 1,000 members made up of community-based organizations and large organizations that have a 501(c)(3) status, but we also welcome those that serve the sector as well.

Burns: Many nonprofits in Michigan rely on federal funding, much of which is passed based on population. Why is it important to have an accurate census count and what are the challenges toward getting there?

Murray-Brown: We’re in 2018 and we’re talking about a 2020 census. It’s important to have a complete count, because 40 percent of Michigan’s budget is represented by federal dollars, so that’s a large chunk. When you think of it purely from an economic perspective, an accurate count of the number of people determines how much federal funding we’re going to get for programs like Medicaid, for programs that support children, for affordable housing programs that are needed to really create, strengthen our communities.

Burns: What are some of the challenges in a city like Detroit in trying to get an accurate count of the people.

Murray-Brown: The first thing in the constitution talks about how important it is to be counted. Just recognizing that they can contribute by being counted is important for people in Detroit to know.

Particularly in the city of Detroit, there are barriers to not just understanding the Census, but to recognizing that it is safe to be able to participate in the Census. There is this fear of how the information will be handled. Could it be hacked? This is something we want to be able to mitigate, to show that the information collected is private, confidential and not able to be hacked.

One community that’s not counted is children; people often don’t recognize children. We’re looking for help from people to build awareness around the importance of completing the census.

We know that this is a moment in time that happens every 10 years, but the implications of not getting it right last for 10 years.

Learn more about Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation here.

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