Researching ways to improve health of local children

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Aye Ma, Community Health Educator, acts as an interpreter for Cindy Barger, Parkview Speech Therapist, who is working to improve the communication skills of two local Burmese children at the Neighborhood Action Center located in Autumn Woods Apartments.

Interventions Research Project tests effectiveness of diagnostic and treatment programs on local Burmese children with minimal English language skills and diverse cultural norms

Since 2004, the Foundation has co-sponsored with the Allen County Dept. of Health, a local lead poisoning prevention-healthy homes program. As a part of this program, various research projects have been launched in the past six years to assure that the most effective diagnostic and treatment programs are offered to local residents. This current research project is one more example.

Annually, approx. 310,000 U.S. children aged 1-5 have elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs). In most cases, the cause of the elevated lead level can be traced to high levels of exposure to lead dust and/or deteriorated paint present in housing units where the children spend a significant amount of time. Recent screening of children born to Burmese refugees living in Fort Wayne revealed multiple cases of lead poisoning without a known cause. This led to a comprehensive study of children residing in two apartment complexes heavily populated with Burmese refugees. Researchers included staff from the Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and Burmese volunteers. The results identified two ethnic home remedies which contained hazardous levels of lead and/or arsenic being used by local Burmese families as digestive aids for young children.

The Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes Program provides case management for lead poisoned children including a developmental assessment and a recommendation on interventions to mitigate the negative effects of lead poisoning. However, significant language barriers and cultural differences have created confusion as to whether the regularly used assessment tool and interventions would be effective with this population. To address this, a research project was launched with three objectives: 1) to evaluate the effectiveness of the developmental tool when used with non-English speaking clients, 2) to measure the success of a pilot pre-school program designed specifically to work with Burmese lead poisoned children, and 3) to measure the effectiveness of speech therapy which is one of the typical therapeutic interventions used with English speaking, lead poisoned children who have communication delays. The research is being conducted by members of the Department of Health and St. Joseph Community Health Foundation's Lead and Healthy Homes staff, Fort Wayne Medical Education Family Practice Residency Program, East Allen Community Schools, and Parkview Pediatric Rehabilitation Services staff under the guidance of Drs. Zollinger and Saywell from IU's Bowen Research Center. Data is currently being compiled and analyzed and a report will be published. Results will help provide solid evidence as to whether or not non-English speaking lead poisoned clients (particularly Burmese) can benefit from the same interventions as those currently being used with English speaking, lead poisoned children in our community.

Project objectives:

1) to evaluate effectiveness of developmental tool when used with non-English speaking clients,
2) to measure success of pilot pre-school program designed to work with Burmese lead poisoned children,
3) to measure effectiveness of speech therapy