By Kate Taft
Associate Director, Child and Adolescent Health
Lead poisoning (unfortunately) continues to be a hot topic in maternal and child health, but there are reasons for optimism.
This year AMCHP will kick off the Maternal and Child Environmental Health Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN), which will focus on state capacity to address the needs of maternal, infant, and child populations that are at risk for or experienced exposure to lead.
Approximately 4 million households in the U.S. have children under age 6 exposed to high levels of lead. No level of lead exposure is safe for children and exposure can affect nearly every system in the body.[i] Addressing this public health concern requires a comprehensive, coordinated approach across those working in maternal and child health, environmental health, housing, insurance and financing, family and community services and supports, and provider networks.
We'll have the opportunity to work with our partners to provide technical assistance to 10 state teams as they work to increase the number of infants and children that have access to comprehensive, coordinated care to address needs related to lead exposure. AMCHP and its partners have a proven track record in using the CoIIN model to accelerate improvements by high-level state teams in health for women, children, and families.
Lead poisoning reemerged as a public health concern on the national stage in 2015, when the mayor of Flint, Mich., declared a state of emergency over the amount of lead in the city's water supply. National data and studies have shown that the situation in Flint is not an anomaly. A Reuters investigation of census tract and zip code-level data found that nearly 3,000 areas across the country have recorded lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint; nearly half had a rate at least four times higher. Additionally, there can be improvements in identifying and treating those who have been exposed to and/or have lead poisoning. National Medicaid data indicate only about 38 percent of children aged 1 to 2 are reported to have been screened for lead.
The CoIIN provides an opportunity to bring together multi-sector state teams that represent the many programs and systems working to prevent lead exposure and provide comprehensive care and needed services because of lead exposure. Not only will we get to work with these dynamic state teams as they test improvements and innovations, but it's also an opportunity for us to model collaboration at the national, state and local levels, particularly around alignment of MCH and environmental health.
As the CoIIN gets underway, we'll develop resources and tools to share the learnings of the state teams with the broader public health field. We look forward to helping spread best practices for engaging and working with families on action plans and quality improvement efforts to improve access to systems of care and services related to lead exposure.
For more information and updates about the progress of the CoIIN, visit our webpage here.