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  • Feb 15, 2024

Uniting for Health

CHA spearheads a collaborative initiative to combat pediatric lead exposure in Chelsea, setting a new standard for community-driven healthcare. 

By Renee Cammarata Hamilton, Camille Karizamimba, and Doug Kress, Department of Community Health.

At Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), we offer more than just clinical excellence; we forge community partnerships to confront health challenges head-on. In Chelsea, a crisis emerged when lead paint chips fell from the Tobin Bridge, prompting a swift response from CHA and a coalition of stakeholders. Our collaboration, rooted in trust and expertise, exemplifies our dedication to patient-centered care and community impact.

In partnership with the Chelsea Department of Health, local residents, other healthcare systems, and community organizations like Chelsea GreenRoots and La Colaborativa, we formed a united front against pediatric lead exposure.

Understanding the Problem

Lead exposure poses significant risks to child development and overall health, particularly in historically marginalized communities. Pediatric lead exposure remains a persistent challenge – a legacy problem in the Chelsea community. As a safety net institution, CHA recognizes the importance of comprehensive outreach and intervention strategies to address this persistent challenge. Our collaborators recognized the critical nature of the lead exposure issue, understanding that time was of the essence. Together, we pooled our institutional resources to develop a coordinated strategy aimed at identifying children who were not up to date on their lead screenings and raising awareness about pediatric lead exposure in the community.

Central to our approach was establishing a multi-sectoral collaboration that brought together stakeholders with various skill sets. Healthcare systems, a municipal health department, community members, and community-based organizations all played pivotal roles in identifying at-risk children and raising awareness about lead exposure. By pooling our respective institutions' resources and expertise, we were able to develop a unified mission and strategy to address the problem at hand.

Health Equity

At the heart of our collaboration is a commitment to health equity. As an environmental justice community, we acknowledge the context of structural racism, and that Chelsea has been adversely and disproportionately impacted by legacy pollution and historical disinvestments. By centering our efforts on health equity, we worked to ensure that every child in Chelsea, regardless of socio-economic status or language spoken, has access to the same level of care and protection against lead exposure as children from communities of privilege.

Patient-Centric Outreach

Our goal was to make it as easy as possible for families to take action by removing barriers to access and providing support every step of the way. We leveraged existing communication channels and internal resources, as well as ensured that patients could have their blood lead levels tested without having to wait to see a provider, thus streamlining the process and minimizing delays. In total, CHA identified 255 pediatric patients between the ages of 0-5 living in Chelsea who were not up to date on the recommended screening schedule.

Once patients were identified, CHA's Department of Community Health worked collaboratively with internal teams to design and implement a multi-phase patient communication and outreach strategy. We utilized a variety of communication methods, including translated emails, USPS letters, and MyChart messages, to reach families where they are. Our outreach efforts prioritized language accessibility and patient convenience, ensuring that families had the information and resources they needed to schedule screening appointments. By making it easy for patients to get tested, we were able to increase screening uptake and ensure that no child slipped through the cracks.

In order to broaden impact throughout the Chelsea community, CHA shared our methodologies with other healthcare providers, amplifying our outreach and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

The Power of Collaboration

This collaborative model offers an opportunity for interventions at the individual and community levels, enabling broader and deeper impact on child health and wellbeing. Knowing that no level of lead is safe, CHA and our collaborative partners will continue to lift up this work to advocate at the state level to develop systems and workflows that tie in state resources for intervention for children who screen positive for lead exposure at lower blood lead levels.

Our collaborative framework for pediatric lead outreach demonstrates the transformative power of community partnerships. This innovative model exemplifies the strength of collective action, emphasizing health equity and embracing community health strategies. By working together, we're not only addressing the immediate issue of lead exposure but also laying the groundwork for a healthier and more equitable future. Together, we can achieve lasting change and build a brighter tomorrow for all.

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