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Physicians to receive email alerts on children at-risk of lead exposure

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The City of South Bend is partnering with a local health information network to target residents at risk of lead exposure.

The city will pay $16,950 to Michiana Health Information Network, over the next three years, to map at-risk homes and alert physicians about at-risk patients. Waldo Mikels-Carrasco, with MHIN, said the group has access to more than 3 billion medical records, including those of children with documented lead exposure.

“We’re going to find the kids who have the highest probability of needing to be tested first,” Mikels-Carrasco said.

He said his company will use their database along with lead-affected housing data from the St. Joseph County Health Department to create hotspots. Mikels-Carrasco said patient information inside of the hotspots will be sent to physicians through HIPPA compliant, highly encrypted emails.

“We can immediately notify the physician, who’s responsible for that child,” he said.

In the last 15 years, only 8 percent of the children in the county have received lead screenings. Mikels-Carrasco said once physicians are notified they will get the children in for a screening.

“I don’t think there has to be additional research to find out where the lead is or who’s living in the homes we know that information,” said Karl Nichols, with Community Wellness Partners.

Nichols said he believes it’s a good thing anytime the city can use innovation. However, he said with the understaffing and underfunding of the county health department, the city should be providing more resources instead of mapping at-risk areas.

“What do we do from that point that they’re tested and find elevated lead levels,” Nichols said. “What do we do with the kids that aren’t going to their well child visits, how do we get them and get services to get the lead out of their system?”

The city said this partnership is a part of a series of actions meant to address the risks posed by environmental lead exposure through addition testing and funding for in-home lead hazard reductions. In Septemeber, the city announced a $670,000 grant for lead identification and control.

Mikels-Carrasco said the medical records and housing data is limited to the partnerships MIHN, the city, and the county health department has. He said some individual physicians, meaning separate from medical groups, do not have to be a part of the program.

He said he hopes the health department and city will educate the parents of children at-risk on why it’s important to receive the lead screenings. The program does not provide parents with the alerts sent to physicians, according to Mikels-Carrasco.

“Parents need to ask their physicians,” he said. “Make sure if my child is in this window I want to make sure they’re getting lead tests.”

Mikels-Carrasco said he asks parents to call 311 for more information on resources for lead testing and abatement. Nichols said residents can call or come by the Community Wellness Partners headquarters on Lincoln Way West for more information and resources.

 

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