There’s a heightened concern around the dangers lead poses to health in Milwaukee, especially among young children. Early this year, Milwaukee residents learned that the Milwaukee Health Department failed to properly notify thousands of families whose children tested positive for elevated blood lead levels.
As the City goes about remedying what appears to be deeper problems within its health department, the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers has decided to step up its existing lead education efforts.
In partnership with the WI Department of Health Service and the Milwaukee Health Department, the Centers' home-based outreach program goes back to 1996.
Starting this Wednesday evening at South Division High School, Sixteenth Street is now also holding Lead-Safe Home workshops to better educate families.
Sixteenth Street's Director of Environmental Health Kevin Engstrom says that these workshops will help get quality, scientific, and medically-valid information out to families. Through learning how to identify lead in paint and soil and by receiving water filters and lead tests, "parents can take that home and put some of those ideas in place and really try to create some barriers between lead and their home and their children," he notes.
While workshops and community outreach are steps in the right direction, Engstrom says that a core part of the solution needs to be increased testing for lead in children. "Particularly," he says, "children living in hotspots in neighborhoods in the city where we know the prevalence rates are higher should be tested every time that they're coming in contact with a physician."
Lead program coordinator Carmen Reinmund adds that if elevated lead levels is not addressed as soon as possible, so much more than a family's health will suffer.
"The children that are being lead poisoned today - that’s our future," she says. "So if we don’t take care of our future right now, I am not sure how we’re going to deal with that generation."
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