LENS Health and Wellness

A Troubling Health Report Card

Cleveland Children Have High Levels of Lead Poisoning, Obesity

Well before Flint, Michigan, made headlines in 2014 for contaminated water and elevated lead levels in children, evidence suggested that a larger percentage of children in Cleveland experienced lead poisoning, mostly from the paint in their older homes.

Students from Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing will help to discover the extent of that poisoning, said Marilyn Lotas, PhD, RN, an associate professor of nursing. A three-year, $300,000 grant from the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation will enable students to test children ages 3 to 5 for lead as part of an existing health-screening program that Lotas directs in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Limited testing in 2015 of children younger than age 6 showed that, citywide, nearly 13 percent had elevated lead levels and, in some neighborhoods, more than 23 percent did, according to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. In Flint, nearly 5 percent of children younger than 5 had elevated levels in 2015, according to a report published last year in the American Journal of Public Health.

Obesity also is a troubling health indicator for Cleveland children. The school screening program most recently found that more than 40 percent of fifth graders are overweight or obese, and 3 to 4 percent had abnormally high blood pressures that put them in the hypertensive range.

Undergraduate nursing students are working on a variety of programs in the schools related to identi ed health problems, including hypertension and obesity.

Separately, a partnership of graduate nursing students and physician-assistant students from the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve will work with the families of children identified with lead poisoning "to support them, to identify barriers, and to get them health care," Lotas said.

—Jenni Laidman