Calvin College

CALVIN - Minds in the Making

Strengthening Liberal Arts Education by Embracing Place and Particularity

Case Study

Get the Lead Out! Retailer Survey

Suggestions for Involving Community Leaders in the Design of a Locally Situated Problem

Even if a local coalition for the prevention of childhood lead poisoning does not exist, there are many opportunities to engage local community leaders in the design and implementation of such a study.  Foremost, local public health departments in most areas of the U.S. are engaged in childhood lead poisoning prevention and case surveillance to some degree.  Since 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention required that state health departments conduct rigorous surveillance of childhood lead poisoning, which most often has resulted in the engagement of local public health.  State and local public health can be excellent resources for the identification of high-risk areas and prevention resources.

At the federal level, Medicaid requires providers to test all enrolled children at one and two years of age.  This requirement has gotten the attention of public and private health providers alike.

Beyond public health, other health leaders are also often interested in childhood lead poisoning.  Sometimes health provider interest is not limited to lead poisoning, but extends to a wider collection of children’s environmental health issues such as asthma triggers, toxins in the homes, carbon monoxide, and more.  In some communities, it may be more beneficial to look at wider children’s environmental health issues, rather than focusing specifically on lead poisoning.  The survey could easily be adapted to include such topics as pesticides, carbon monoxide detectors, and other health issues (as has been done by the Improving Kids’ Environments in Indianapolis).

Housing professionals are another source of support.  Non-profit housing advocates are often interested in the provision of safe, affordable housing.  Tenant unions also have an interest in safe housing.  In many cases, non-profit housing providers use federal funding and are therefore held to lead safety standards that have raised their concern for this issue.  In the private sector, guilds and associations may be interested in lead safe work practices as a capacity building issue and may collaborate for training and education.

Early childhood advocates are also natural allies.  Working with families on healthy childhood development, these organizations know about and are concerned with the hazards of lead and other children’s environmental health issues.  Some, like Head Start, are required to engage families in blood lead testing.  Many are focused on primary prevention and are dedicated to providing healthy living environments for children.

The strongest advocates at the local level often are grassroots community-based organizations and environmental advocates.  Neighborhood organizations, ethnic organizations, ACORN, local chapters of the Sierra Club, and many others have provided local leadership in many communities.  These groups often focus upon environmental justice and may have a high level of interest in gaining the cooperation of retailers and other corporate citizens.


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