LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 4 no 3 Winter ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Public Education on Lead in Broken Hill

This article is from the Discussion Paper from a Workshop held to develop a long term strategy for the management of lead contamination in Broken Hill. The following discussion on Public Education is one of five areas covered in the short term strategy for the Broken Hill Environmental Lead Centre (BHELC), a joint project of the NSW Health Department and the NSW Environment Protection Authority. Reprinted with kind permission from Bill Balding (BHELC).

Rationale

Lead has always been, and for many years to come will continue to have a major influence on the social and economic wellbeing of Broken Hill as well as the potential to impact adversely on the health of local children. Lead in Broken Hill is ubiquitous - it can be found throughout the town; around and in houses, in the streets, in public places, on the line of lode, and on private lands.

Management of the Broken Hill lead problem requires a complex mix of community-based programs developed by the short term strategy. These programs focus on: keeping the local community informed about the lead issue and what can be done to minimise its impact on health; the provision of a comprehensive monitoring program targeting the environment and blood lead levels in children: effective case management for kids with high blood lead levels: efforts to create safer public lands and ongoing research and development. These activities aim to continuously enhance the ability of the Broken Hill community to deal with this issue and minimise the risk of young children developing high blood lead levels.

Public education plays its part and provides appropriately targeted messages about the lead issue in Broken Hill. Its continuation is essential to the overall success of future lead control initiatives. In particular we need to inform each new group of parents, grand parents and carers (Broken Hill has around 350 births a year) why lead is an important health issue, how and where children get exposed to lead, things carers and children can do to minimise lead ingestion, about the availability and use of blood lead screening and other related services, and the overall impact of lead control strategies on the community’s health.

Achievements of Short Term Strategy

The Broken Hill Environmental Lead Centre has developed and used a wide range of educational materials. In doing so it has drawn on the expertise and resources produced for other sites such as at Port Pirie in South Australia and centres in the USA and Canada.

The overall approach to public education has been based on sound health promotion principles and a strategic framework. This has included the effective use of local media through television news coverage and community service announcements, regular radio work, and frequent media releases and pictorial stories in the widely circulated local newspaper.

Furthermore targeted educational sessions have been provided regularly at antenatal classes, childcare and school groups. Parent and Teacher Associations and other community and professional groups. Educational sessions for young children have been facilitated by a life-size Lead Ted and the use of puppet shows in addition to other activity-based materials.

The Environmental Lead Centre has also taken advantage of promotional opportunities afforded by public events such as World Environment Day, show days, education and children’s week.

Successful marketing of the blood lead screening service has been achieved using a variety of rewards for attending the clinic such as Lead Teds, t-shirts, fruit soaps etc.

Preliminary evaluation of these efforts suggest that public education has been very successful in raising public awareness of the issues, promoting blood lead testing of children and contributing to a significant reduction in blood lead levels among Broken Hill children since 1992.

Proposed Long Term Strategy

Public education is a key component of the long term strategy being proposed to deal with the lead issue in Broken Hill. As indicated above, educational messages need to be regularly reinforced and presented to each new group of parents, grand parents and carers as they take on the task of bringing up young children in Broken Hill, in addition to the wider community.

Public education will continue to be firmly based on, and work in with, other health promotion activities.

A range of strategies will be applied through the local media, working with community groups and professionals (health and other) to achieve key outcomes of:

  • high levels of awareness and knowledge about lead safety among carers and young children;

  • comprehensive understanding of lead issues among relevant professional groups who deal with young families and children;

  • maintenance of very high blood lead screening rates among local toddlers;

  • high levels of community awareness about the Lead Centre's activities and its achievements.

To achieve these outcomes the Lead Centre will finetune and focus existing strategies and prepare new educational materials and resources to meet the changing needs of the local community. Education activities will need to receive greater priority in the long term strategy in order to successfully complete the allocated tasks to the appropriate high standard.

To increase the reach of public education the Centre will engage other members of the community to contribute as educators through training of relevant professional groups and individuals (eg early childhood nurses, midwives, GPs) and the provision of information/education kits (written, audiovisual material).

Public education will also be responsible for the ongoing management and evaluation of local media campaigns and public events to (among other things) promote and reinforce individual and community responses that effectively reduce lead ingestion in young children (eg house cleaning, hand washing).

Furthermore the on-going promotion of the blood lead screening service will be managed through the public education initiative.

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Last Updated 26 November 2012
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