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Health Department Awarded Grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

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Health Department Awarded Grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) was recently awarded a Member and Community Health Improvement grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to improve childhood lead testing rates for the years 2018-2020. “The grant funds will be used to purchase lead testing equipment for six local provider offices, so that lead testing is available at the same time as the child’s appointment,” states Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director.

Lead testing equipment is not universally present in all medical provider practices serving children. Of the 10 local practices providing medical care to children, only 4 (40 percent) offer on-site lead testing. Practices lacking lead testing equipment have the lowest lead testing rates in Tompkins County. “We are committed to promoting and improving lead testing rates in children to identify elevated levels as early as possible. Making lead testing equipment available at these practices will eliminate testing barriers, such as the need for additional appointments, work time lost, and transportation challenges. This is a win-win for children, parents and providers!” states Karen Bishop, Director of Community Health.

The lead test consists of a quick finger stick with a result given in about one minute. If the result is elevated, the child is then referred to a laboratory for further testing.

Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing in lead, a heavy metal, which can be found in dust, air, water, soil, and some household products. Most often, children get lead poisoning from breathing in lead dust or swallowing lead paint chips that get on floors and windowsills, hands and toys. Lead can harm a young child’s growth, behavior, and ability to learn. “That’s why it is so important to test for lead in young children,” states Bishop.

“A big part of our mission at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is helping to improve the health and health care of the residents in the communities we serve. Early detection of elevated blood lead levels in children is critical to their success in life. By removing barriers to testing, we help ensure that more children in our community can live healthy, successful lives” says Jim Reed, president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Central New York region.

New York state regulation requires that medical providers test all 1-and 2-year-old children. During 2017, Tompkins County blood lead testing rates for 1-year-olds was 59.36 percent and for 2-year-olds was 55.27percent, according to the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS). As of March 2017, the incidence of confirmed elevated blood lead levels (10 mcg/dL or higher) in Tompkins County children younger than 6 years was a rate of 6.5 per 1,000 children tested. (New York State Child Health Lead Poisoning Prevention, 2013-15)

TCHD is committed to lead poisoning prevention in our community. The Health Department hosts the Lead Poisoning Prevention Network and meets regularly with providers to ensure that children are tested at 1 and 2 years of age. Health Department staff educate the public on potential lead hazards and their associated negative effects. Lead Program staff respond to reported elevated lead levels in children by conducting a home visit to collect environmental samples for testing and providing harm reduction strategies to parents. More information can be found here:

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Member and Community Health Improvement (MACHI) grant program provides funding to local, nonprofit organizations that share the organization’s vision for healthier communities. The initiatives supported span multiple years and include specific objectives and measurable outcomes for improving community health. The grant dollars are disbursed over several years to ensure they significantly and positively affect public health.

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