Social work approach on decreasing blood lead levels in Port Pirie

Emma Nunan1, Charlotte Dean2, Hannah Herrmann3

1 Environmental Health Centre, 117 Gertrude Street Port Pirie, SA 5540 emma.nunan@sa.gov.au
2 Environmental Health Centre, 117 Gertrude Street Port Pirie, SA 5540 charlotte.dean@sa.gov.au
3 Environmental Health Centre, 117 Gertrude Street Port Pirie, SA 5540 hannah.herrmann@sa.gov.au

Background:

The Port Pirie Environmental Health Centre (EHC) helps protect children from the harmful effects of lead in their environment. Port Pirie has a history of lead contamination resulting from more than 100 years of smelting in in the town.

The Social Work team’s responsibility at EHC is to provide comprehensive case management focusing on early intervention and collaboration with the families and local community to reduce lead exposure pathways. There is no ‘safe’ level of lead exposure and exposure should be reduced or prevented to keep blood lead levels as low as possible. Young children and pregnant women are most at risk from the health impacts of lead exposure.

Purpose:

EHC identified that children’s blood lead levels increased within the first two years of the child’s life. Due to this knowledge and the previous research on pathways in Port Pirie,early intervention strategies were identified as a plan forward to reduce children’s exposure to lead. The social determinants of health were recognised as an impact on children’s overall health, particularly their blood lead levels.

Method:

A review of services identified a need to refocus EHC service provision. A service plan proposal was developed utilising the analysis of blood lead levels technical paper, AEDC and child development knowledge, which was approved by senior staff members. Advocacy for additional resources, with two allied health FTEs employed, to expand the team’s ability to provide more intensive early intervention case management. Partnering with children and families is central to increase engagement and health outcomes for their children in Port Pirie.

Results:

Results will be discussed with reference to technical paper data and case examples.

Conclusion

Exploring case examples and utilising statistical data provides evidence that early intervention and prevention is the most proactive and efficient way forward in managing children’s exposure to lead in Port Pirie.

Biography

Emma is the senior social worker at the Environmental Health Centre, she also has a private social work practice. Previously Emma was employed by Families SA and UCWCSA. Emma is recognised as an Advanced Accredited Social Worker by the AASW. Emma has been the elected the chair of the Early Childhood Initiatives Group on two occasions; working with an interagency multidisciplinary group to develop plans for development of the Port Pirie community. During Emma’s roles she has engaged intensively with families to alleviate risks and implement client centred case plans; focusing on paediatrics and the dynamics of families.