Magazine article The Nation's Health

Kansas Intern Program Creates Local Networks for Lead Poisoning Prevention

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Kansas Intern Program Creates Local Networks for Lead Poisoning Prevention

Article excerpt

AS FEDERAL funding for lead poisoning prevention dwindled in 2012, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment realized it would lack local full-time employees to educate Kansans and inspect homes.

But with the help of an $80,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Kansas Public Health Association came to the agency's aid and the two organizations joined forces to create a pool of local help via the KPHA Healthy Homes Intern Program.

KPHA helped identify interns--students or public health workers--who could build a network of resources in 2012 across 18 Kansas counties for families needing assistance for home lead removal. The CDC grant was awarded in October 2011.

Childhood lead exposure can lead to learning disabilities and other health issues. Federal funding for CDC lead poisoning prevention programs dropped from $29 million in fiscal year 2011 to as low as $2 million in fiscal year 2012.

Shannon Steinbauer, RN, the former program director of the Kansas Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Prevention Program for the state agency, worked with KPHA to identify four local health departments that were aware of lead poisoning and healthy homes issues but may not have had active programs to address those problems.

"We were going to lose funding, had a pot of money to spend at local level and KPHA stepped up, Affiliates said Steinbauer, who is now a government technical representative for regions seven and eight for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. Affiliates It turned into a great public health activity.

Steinbauer and Eric Bowles, KPHA's Environmental Health Section Chair, did site visits to the local health departments to get involved with the intern program. The program reached out to local students and KPHA spread the word through the KPHA website, the annual Governor's Public Health Conference and the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments, said Eldonna Chesnut, MSN, RN, an APHA member. All interns went through training on creating healthy home environments and how to do testing in homes where there are possibly elevated blood lead levels.

Interns were responsible for developing a network that ranged from churches to hardware stores for families that needed lead abatement, Chesnut said.

"For example, if the home needed to be painted, they could get a donation from a hardware store for paints, brushes and supplies," Chesnut said. …

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