Work to Eradicate Lead Poisoning Unites Cleveland Health Advocates
Johnson, Teddi Dineley, The Nation's Health
Health advocates in Cleveland are pouring resources, knowledge and energy into a campaign to eradicate childhood lead poisoning, a disease that has placed Cleveland among the top five U.S. cities for excessive levels of lead among children.
The Lead-Safe Living Campaign, launched in May 2006 with a $1.3 million grant from St. Luke's Foundation of Cleveland, seeks to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in greater Cleveland by 2010. Under the auspices of the Cleveland Department of Public Health, the campaign coordinates an extensive lead awareness marketing effort that harnesses TV, radio, buses and billboards to reach parents of young children and pregnant women. The campaign also provides grants to fund educational projects conducted by participating agencies of the Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council, a community collaborative with diverse representatives, including parents of lead-poisoned children, medical providers, contractors and local state and federal government officials.
Lead poisoning is one of the most serious public health concerns facing Cleveland children, according to Christine Haley Medina, MSSA, campaign project director at the Cleveland Department of Public Health.
"Our goal is to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010, not to reduce it," Haley Medina told The Nation's Health. "We are really advocating for parents to know that there is no safe level of lead, and to do whatever they can to ensure that their homes are lead safe."
Lead, a neurotoxin, can affect brain development and cognitive abilities and at very high levels can kill a child. More than 1,600 children younger than age 6 in Cleveland's Cuyahoga County were poisoned from lead last year, Haley Medina said. Nationally, the average rate of lead poisoning among children was less than 2 percent last year, but Cleveland posted an 11 percent rate, and in some neighborhoods the rate was well above 20 percent, she said. Because their bodies and nervous systems are undergoing rapid neurological and physical development, children younger than age 6 are at greater risk of poisoning. Even at low levels, lead can damage a young child's brain and cause learning and behavioral disabilities, impaired hearing and poor school performance. …