The Oakland County Health Division is overhauling its lead exposure testing and education programs in light of the situation in Flint.
The division has applied for a $75,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to help with implementing recommendations from the state’s Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission’s action plan. The grant money will also help the division hire a part-time public health educator.
The plan outlines how health departments statewide can better address lead poisoning and how existing programs can be enhanced through a multi-component screening and education initiative that aims to increase the number of children screened for lead, help identify high-risk areas for lead poisoning, and broaden environmental lead investigations.
Leigh-Anne Stafford, the health division’s officer, said the initiative will focus on primary prevention activities, which work to prevent exposure to lead. Activities will include screening along with education and awareness efforts.
“Since there is no medical treatment that reverses the effects of exposure to lead, primary prevention, or acting before a child is harmed, is critical,” said Stafford.
Shane Bies, the county’s administrator of public health nursing services, will be overseeing the implementation of the initiative, The Multi-Component Lead Poisoning Testing and Education Initiative for Oakland County.
“The events in Flint over the past several years have highlighted the serious consequences of childhood lead exposure and poisoning,” said Stafford. “Children with elevated blood lead levels continue to be found at a steady rate throughout Michigan, suggesting that new efforts are needed to combat this exposure.”
Stafford said the commission’s action plan outlines many different approaches for primary prevention of lead exposure. This includes switching to universal blood lead testing for children ages 9 to 12 months and again at 24 to 36 months.
The action plan also calls for increased availability of environmental lead investigations, including expanded soil and water testing.
“The health division is a natural choice to develop a multi-component lead poisoning testing and education initiative, based on a long history of providing lead-related services to the community,” said Stafford. “This funding opportunity would build the capacity of the division to expand services that are currently provided and place a focus on primary prevention of lead exposure.”
• Over the past five years, roughly between 17 to 19 percent of county children under the age of six have been tested for lead.
• In 2016, 19 percent of the approximately 81,590 county children under the age of six were tested for lead, leaving over 65,000 children unscreened.
• In 2016, 15,882 children were screened for elevated blood lead levels and 196 children, or 1.2 percent of children tested, had elevated lead levels
The health division’s goal is to meet all goals by September 2019. Some of these goals include:
• Forming a committee to oversee strategy implementation
• Developing a physician toolkit to promote universal testing programs
• Increasing testing in targeted populations
• Providing recommendations to municipalities to tackle lead hazards
• Increasing the overall number of children screened for lead
• Helping identify and confirm high-risk areas of lead exposure
In addition, the health division will create a Lead Prevention Partnership that will connect already established county-based collaborations to help guide the initiative.
These collaborations include Best Start for Babies, Access to Care Workgroup, and Homeless Healthcare Collaboration.
“This partnership will oversee development of all strategies, coordinate testing initiatives, outreach to physicians and other stakeholders, and facilitate referrals and coordination between agencies that provide lead related services,” said Stafford.
According to the grant application, partners would include Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency (OLSHA), Oakland Integrated Healthcare Network, Oakland Schools, Oakland County Community and Home Improvement Division, Community Housing Network, Crittenton Hospital, Beaumont Health, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, the Dr. Gary Bernstein Health Center, and Covenant Community Care.
The education of physicians about the importance of testing all children and pregnant women, not just those considered high-risk, is one of the main goals of the initiative.
A Physician Lead Screening and Prevention Toolkit will be created, which will include:
• Testing recommendations for children and pregnant women
• Equipment and supplies needed for lead testing
• Messaging for parents regarding lead testing
• Clinical recommendations for children with elevated lead levels
• Resources for environmental assessments
• Information about lead hazards in the home
• Posters and other educational materials
The health division will partner with healthcare management organizations, physician organizations, and others to distribute the toolkits
MORE TESTING AND EDUCATION
Some of the other main components of the initiative include making sure all Medicaid-insured children are screened for lead, and testing in high-risk populations, which includes women, infants, and children.
This will be accomplished by screening more individuals in Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Early Head Start programs and health division clinic services.
According to the health division, it can cost anywhere from $83 to $1,171 to treat a child for lead poisoning, dependent on the the level of poisoning. The grant funding will be used in part to purchase six lead testing machines at $1,300 a piece.
Partnerships will also be formed, including with the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency, to provide supplies, training, and outreach services for lead testing in their WIC clinics and Early Head Start programs.
“This project will also have a secondary goal of increasing the number of communities that are taking a primary prevention approach to lead hazards in their community,” said Stafford. “The health division will expand the amount of water and soil testing in the county.”
This includes providing water and soil tests in homes of children with elevated blood lead levels. Toolkits will also be created for communities, which will provide specific information and support on how to identify and deal with lead hazards.
OAKLAND COUNTY CHILDHOOD LEAD PREVENTION PROGRAM: https://www.oakgov.com/health/services/Pages/Childhood%20Lead%20Poisoning%20Prevention%20Program.aspx
LEAD POISONING IN CHILDREN:
LEAD AND DRINKING WATER: https://www.oakgov.com/health/information/Pages/Lead-and-Drinking-Water.aspx
STATE OF MICHIGAN LEAD POISONING INFO: http://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71550_2955_2983—,00.html
ABOUT THE CHILDHOOD LEAD EXPOSURE ELIMINATION GRANT: http://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71551_5460_82424—,00.html