235497 “There is no Somali word for lead poisoning…”: Role for the public health system in preventing childhood lead poisoning in an African refugee resettlement community

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 12:30 PM

Rosemary M. Caron, PhD, MPH , Health Management and Policy, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Thandi Tshabangu-Soko, MPH, MS, MA , School of Health Sciences, Simmons College, Boston, MA
Krysten Finefrock, BS , Department of Health Management and Policy, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
The decline in childhood lead poisoning in recent decades is widely regarded as a public health success story. However, the risk for lead poisoning among refugee children who resettle in the US remains elevated. Following the pediatric fatality of an African refugee child in Manchester, NH from lead poisoning, screening guidelines changed to include mandatory testing of refugee children within three months of arrival. Communication methods implemented by practitioners for preventing lead poisoning in this at-risk population warrant further investigation. We demonstrate childhood lead poisoning as a complex public health problem and illustrate how the understanding of a community's ecology (i.e., social, cultural, economic, and political composition) can be integrated into the local response of public health practitioners to this persistent environmental issue. We utilized semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders (resettlement agencies, social service agencies developed by African refugees and resettled Somali refugees) involved in the refugee resettlement process to 1.) describe an urban community's ecology for Somali refugees and 2.) examine communication methods utilized in reference to childhood lead poisoning. We employed the cultural-experiential model of risk to propose the relevance of a community's ecology when communicating environmental health risks and the importance of developing place-specific and refugee-specific health communication strategies. Communities and neighborhoods are important determinants in health-related problems for resettled refugee populations. A community's ecology and the social context of risk as it pertains to childhood lead poisoning are factors that will influence how a diverse community interprets and responds to educational messages and community capacity building efforts. This presentation describes the importance of a community's ecology in the risk of childhood lead poisoning in a resettled African refugee population and its role in the development of communication strategies. Recommendations are presented for public health practitioners who assist at-risk refugee populations with this complex public health issue.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to: • Define childhood lead poisoning as a complex public health problem. • Describe the barriers involved in communicating the risks of childhood lead poisoning to a resettled African refugee population in an urban community • Describe the importance of how considering a community’s ecology can affect environmental communication efforts by public health practitioners.

Keywords: Refugees, Environmental Exposures

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have over ten years experience as a public health practitioner at the local community level; currently, I am an academician and am the former Director of the MPH Program at the University of New Hampshire
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.