Protecting the “littles” is a cornerstone of Family Health Centers of San Diego’s (FHCSD) mission. Children are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged when it comes to health care prevention.  Nationally, pediatric practices are challenged with retaining their patients after four months of age. Contributors to this decline in pediatric wellness visits may be busy single parents, families living at the federal poverty level or those parents managing 2-3 jobs just to survive. All these causes may result in children’s preventive health care falling to the lowest level in a family’s priorities.

Routine pediatric visits call for standardized lead screening at 12 and 24 months. This schedule complies with California Department of Public Health Management Guidelines for Childhood Lead Poisoning. All children brought to routine pediatric appointments at those times will be screened for lead. The importance of lead screening cannot be overestimated. Lead poisoning can damage kidneys, the brain and the nervous system of young children. It can cause severe behavioral and learning problems and create irreversible damage.

Lead is found in lead-based paint, contaminated soil, glazed pottery from other countries, numerous imported candies and in drinking water leached through lead pipes. Should a lead questionnaire lead a pediatrician to suspect an exposure in a child younger than 12 months, earlier testing may be ordered. But in the early stages of lead exposure, symptoms might mimic other childhood ailments—sleeplessness, headaches, nausea, tummy aches and muscle soreness may not always suggest lead testing. Plain and simple—how are families supposed to know about lead screening and the importance of early detection?

Our answer is Family Health Centers of San Diego just received a five-year grant to bring the message of Lead Awareness and Education to over 10,000 families and caregivers across San Diego County.  Early environmental awareness is key to limiting or stopping children’s exposure to lead. Leveraging FHCSD’s expertise in outreach and education activities, and banking on its almost 30 member Outreach Worker’s Network (“OWN” Program), FHCSD intends to identify lead exposure and reduce the incidence in our communities. It is an aggressive goal, but one worth our effort if we can reverse the damaging effects of lead on our communities’ children.

The goal of this five-year lead eradication grant is simple:  Protecting children, eradicating harm, and making healthier communities.  

So yes, I am proud to say, we are at it again!

“CEO’s Corner: An Update from Fran” is a regular feature of Adelante, our monthly newsletter. Please check our Adelante archives for additional columns and keep an eye out for featured ones appearing in this blog!