Getting-The-Lead-Out Initiative Will Help Cities Eliminate Childhood Lead Poisoning
$4 million in grants from The Kresge Foundation will assist nonprofits and municipal organizations engaged in lead testing, abatement, advocacy, and data collection in Detroit, Newark, and Oakland, California.
TROY, MICHIGAN – The Michigan-based Kresge Foundation has launched a major two-year Getting-The-Lead-Out Initiative to raise national public awareness of the environmental-health hazard posed by lead and advance ongoing community efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.
The foundation has awarded $4 million in grants to seven nonprofit and municipal organizations engaged in lead testing, abatement, advocacy, and data collection in Detroit, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; and Oakland, California, along with the Michigan Public Health Institute which is providing program coordination and evaluation.
“Kresge is making an investment in health programming that directly impacts the lives of children and families,” says Phyllis D. Meadows, senior fellow on Kresge’s Health Team. “Through its grantmaking, the foundation hopes to leverage the positive work being done on childhood lead poisoning and to take it to the next level.”
The epicenter of this positive work is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Lead Poisoning Prevention Program which has set a national “Healthy People 2010” objective to end within two years the elevated lead levels found in the blood of at-risk children. Kresge has engaged the CDC to explore how its grant investments can best be integrated into this national effort.
Mary Jean Brown, chief of the CDC’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, commends Kresge for taking a leadership role by becoming the first private foundation to enter this field on a national scale.
“The tragedy of lead poisoning for us in the United States is not that children die, but that they are robbed of some piece of their potential,” she explains. “That makes their lives more difficult, makes it easier to take advantage of them, and limits their life success.”
“Through Kresge’s Health Program, we are targeting the root causes of poor health, especially those that affect low-income and minority families living in poor neighborhoods with heightened exposure to toxic, unhealthy or dangerous conditions,” says David D. Fukuzawa, Kresge’s Health Program director. “There is clear scientific proof that childhood lead poisoning leads to developmental delays, even retardation, and contributes to low test scores and juvenile delinquency. Yet, it is a perfectly preventable problem.”
Kresge has awarded five grants to a cohort of public and nonprofit organizations working to eliminate lead poisoning in metropolitan Detroit. The city’s children have the fifth highest prevalence of elevated levels of lead in their blood, according to data from 2000 to 2005.
The overall effort is being coordinated and evaluated by the Michigan Public Health Institute, which received a $1.375 million grant for this work. The Michigan Department of Community Health, the state’s public-health agency, has received a two-year, $55,000 grant to expand its current lead-training program in Detroit. The training also will provide economic opportunities and jobs for residents.
The Detroit Department of Health & Wellness Promotion will use a $300,000 grant to fund the new position of “lead czar” in the mayor’s office; review and revise the city’s strategic plan for lead-poisoning elimination; and implement programmatic efficiencies and effectiveness for lead testing and treatment.
The third grant – $600,000 to be paid over two years – went to CLEARCorps/Detroit, a community-based, childhood lead-poisoning prevention program. The funds will be used to expand ongoing lead-poisoning education and prevention efforts among pregnant women and mothers with newborn babies. In addition, CLEARCorps will step-up its efforts to target areas with high numbers of contaminated houses as well as highly toxic individual homes for clean-up or demolition.
Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies, is the recipient of the fourth grant, a $50,000 award to accelerate the development of an interactive Lead Housing Database. This electronic tool will enable partner organizations to improve tracking of childhood lead-poisoning cases and properties.
Newark, New Jersey
Newark’s Department of Child and Family Well-Being has received a two-year, $1.5 million grant from Kresge to help reduce the incidence of childhood lead poisoning among low-income families with children under age six. The grant will allow the department to expand its primary prevention program, which in turn will increase the number of children screened for lead and the number of homes remediated and made lead safe for youngsters and their families.
The city estimates that the rate of children affected by lead poisoning in Newark is three times higher than it is in the state of New Jersey (8 percent) and the U.S. (5 percent). This elevated exposure to lead can be attributed to the city’s older housing stock, its industrial past, and the nexus of commercial highways that results in excessive vehicle emissions.
In 2008, Mayor Cory A. Booker and city officials pledged to make Newark a “Model Lead-Safe City.” Kresge funding will help leaders and their constituents achieve this goal by expanding the Newark Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which has managed all aspects of lead poisoning from prevention, screening, and treatment to lead-hazard remediation.
Reinvigorated efforts will center on improving communication and media strategies; extending prevention and outreach; and allocating more resources for the relocation of families and the construction of lead-safe housing. The city currently has two lead-safe houses with seven units to accommodate families during the remediation of lead at their homes. Plans call for adding four additional two-family lead-safe houses in the near future.
Kresge has awarded $225,000 over two years to the Alameda County Community Development Agency for the expansion of its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
Alameda County’s approach is distinctive from that of other municipalities because it focuses on developing an advocacy campaign aimed at articulating policy and programmatic changes needed to reduce childhood lead poisoning. The county’s prevention program also is innovative for its comprehensive, multidisciplinary nature, which combines health, housing, and environmental intervention activities into one program.
This grant will support the expansion of a broad-based coalition to include community-based organizations, foundations, and policymakers. Funding also will be used to provide training on such topics as creating lead-safe work practices and preventing and reducing lead exposure in the workplace.
Home contamination is the major source of lead poisoning among the unborn and children under six in Alameda County. Low-income children living in deteriorated older homes, where lead-based paint was used until the late 1970s, are especially at-risk.
Alameda’s prevention program requested Kresge’s help to enhance the work of the Get the Lead out Coalition, a collaborative that unites representatives of lead-poisoning prevention organizations in 11 counties in the greater San Francisco-Oakland Bay area. By the end of 2009, the program plans to have instructed more than 200 local, low-income and minority contractors and laborers on the proper way to perform lead-safe work on older homes and how to avoid spreading contamination outside work sites.
For more information on the Detroit effort, contact Lyke Thompson, email@example.com or call 313-577-5209.
For more information on the Newark, New Jersey effort, contact Rawaa Albilal, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 973-733-5310.
For more information on the Oakland, California effort, contact Maricela Narvaez-Foster, email@example.com or call 510-567-8294.