Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program - Community Capacity Project

State: WI Type: Model Practice Year: 2003

The Community Capacity Project (CCP) applies grassroots leadership development and community organizing strategies to drive action toward environmental health goals. In 1997 the Milwaukee Health Department Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (MHD CLPPP) began funding four community-based organizations (CBOs) in high-lead poisoning neighborhoods to empower residents to participate in strategy development and policy-making. The resulting neighborhood demand for lead-safe housing and community-grown solutions have been critical to achieving lead-poisoning prevention milestones, like a community-wide primary prevention lead paint abatement law; lead paint industry litigation to fund abatement; and a highly successful voluntary lead abatement program. The incidence of lead poisoning in Milwaukee has declined 50% over the past five years. The major hallmark of CCP is the integration of community education, community participation, community leadership development and community empowerment. It engages the congruous needs for personal engagement of those affected for both health behavior change and social change.
The CCP is a part of a comprehensive childhood lead poisoning program that seeks to eradicate childhood lead poisoning in Milwaukee by the year 2010. CCP project are funded by the MHD CLPPP and are located at CBOs located in high-risk neighborhoods where close to 50% of children have lead levels known to cause neurobehavioral defects. The CCP supports and includes community residents most impacted by the problem by assuring their involvement in neighborhood-based and citywide strategies.The CCP project was developed and refined in Milwaukee over the last five years. The CCP does more than give lip service to community-based involvement by educating, training and mentoring parent and community leaders for key roles in strategic planning. The CCP combines health promotion with community organizing and advocacy through this homegrown model.
The MHD CLPPP funds the CCP with four community-based organizations that are soon to be increased to six projects. In addition to funding, the MHD CLPPP provides technical assistance through education, training, leadership development and enhanced access to city services. Contracted CBOs conduct community organizing to identify community residents who have an interest in being involved in the project. Once potential community leaders are identified they are given education and training on the scope of the problem, the impact of childhood lead poisoning, current program efforts and future strategies. CCP projects (lead by the CBO community organizers) then organize neighborhood-based Parents Against Lead groups that develop, implement and evaluate community initiatives, and develop neighborhood based strategic plans. The CCP Project fosters collaboration through intensive technical assistance, support and resident leadership development. This is unique as it goes beyond just providing funding. Further, the MHD CLPPP supports neighborhood based strategic plan fulfillment. The MHD CLPPP Manager who provides leadership for this project – contract execution, technical assistance, leadership development, and access to city services – has an annual salary $53,000 per year.Contracts to CBOs average $50,000 per year per organization for a total of $200,000 each year. Resident involvement is leveraged as Parents Against Lead groups are all volunteer.
The program is evaluated through several measures including: 1) community-outreach and education initiatives; 2) training and support activities for resident leadership development; 3) creation and maintenance of a Registry of Lead Safe Housing; 4) provision of tenant education, support and advocacy; and 5) partnership and collaboration with other community initiatives which promote neighborhood stability. Additionally, the outcomes of these efforts have resulted in: 1) the passage of the Lead Pilot Ordinance, which was the first primary prevention ordinance in the country; 2) passage of a resolution enabling the City of Milwaukee to sue the lead paint industry to abate high risk housing units; 3). resident/community involvement in the development of city-wide strategic plans and grant applications; and 4) stability and increase in city funding for lead poisoning prevention efforts. Rates of childhood lead poisoning have been decreased by over 50% over the last five years. Low-income community residents have been developed as leaders who can apply these advocacy skills to any social problem in the future. PAL groups are now expanding their focus to other issues related to housing and health.
As lessons have been learned, they have resulted in refinement of the CCP model. Lessons learned include the need for intensive and ongoing leadership development, a balance of the will of the community with political realities, assurance of culturally and linguistically appropriate education and training (one CCP is Latino, one is Hmong), the fact that turnover in low-paying organizer positions is imminent resulting in the need for strong CBO infrastructure, the need to continually assess resident self-interest to support long-term involvement, and the need for childcare and incentives for community-resident involvement. This community-building project has the potential to be replicated in other communities, as well as build community leadership in health issues other than childhood lead poisoning. In summary, the steps are as follows: Identification of funding; Recruitment and organizational development of grantees; Training and development of community organizers; Community leadership development/ Project implementation; and Process and outcome evaluation. In addition to outlining the steps for replication, the depth of involvement in the community empowerment and capacity-building process also needs to be emphasized. The success of these projects truly lies in dedicated individuals from all organizations and residents that are included in these partnerships, and who are “up to their elbows” in this great community work-in-progress. Trust is an elemental factor in the CCP, and success has required the consistent, honest involvement of each organization in all steps of the process.