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Example 4: Girls Take Charge to Get the Lead Out

Girls Inc., Munroe-Meyer Institute/The University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Omaha Healthy Kids collaborated to develop and implement a community project with girls ages 13-14. Four girls from Girls Inc. met weekly to learn about the principles of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR). Based on resources from the Community Tool Box, the curriculum was adapted for adolescents. In the project, the girls identified a community concern and chose a project to address that concern. The girls first took pictures of environmental concerns in North Omaha (an inner city area of predominantly Black families), grouped them into three categories (Beauty & Cleanliness; Safety; and Health Hazards), identified the importance of each topic, and selected one area of concern. Their choice was lead poisoning.

The girls then met with an advisory board and with the assistance of Omaha Healthy Kids Coalition, they planned and produced a Lead Poisoning Health Awareness Fair, which occurred June 29, 2007 at Girls Inc. There were ten booths including: an information booth, a scavenger hunt, a wheel-of-fortune, an awareness booth entitled “Does it have Lead?”, a booth entitled “How I can become a Lead Leader”, a food booth with free foods that minimize the effects of lead on the body, free lead-testing home kits from Omaha Healthy Kids, free lead testing from Douglas County Department of Health for children ages 1-6, and free lead testing of household items, courtesy of Floyd Brown of JD & Associates. One girl wrote and choreographed a rap about lead poisoning, which was performed by six girls from Girls Inc. Prizes were given for anyone completing all the booths. Approximately 150 children and adults attended. Pre- and post-tests of knowledge showed that younger children improved in their knowledge from 79% to 87% (+ 8%) while adolescents and adults showed about the same knowledge (82% pre and 83% post). A total of ten home testing kits were distributed. None of the returned kits showed lead. Two of the six children tested for lead showed very high levels of lead. As a result of this finding, Girls Inc. will begin offering lead testing on site for girls ages 1-6.

All girls involved with the project reported high satisfaction. Three of the four girls presented the findings from this project at the annual Public Health Association of Nebraska conference in Grand Island NE on September 23, 2007.

Community participants included advisory board members representing the following community consumers: a parent, a Girls Inc. board member, a community activist, a high school teacher, a representative from Omaha Healthy Kids Coalition (a community group to prevent lead poisoning), an AmeriCorps worker from the community, and staff members from Girls Inc and Munroe-Meyer Institute/University of Nebraska Medical Center.

This pilot project was of 6 months duration. The plan is for it to be revised and replicated. Future “Girls Take Charge” projects will focus on other child health issues in North Omaha.