Growing Healthy Soil for Heaalthy Communities

Building community and public health capacity for lead exposure prevention in two Milwaukee neighborhoods

Full Project Name:Growing Healthy Soil for Healthy CommunitiesPrimary Community Organization:Sixteenth Street Community Health CentersAward Amount:$749,999
Award Date
January2014
Project Duration:60 months

Project Description Narrative:


Exposure to lead remains a serious problem in low-income, African-American and immigrant communities. In the city of Milwaukee, a four- to five-fold disparity exists in childhood lead poisoning prevalence rates between city residents and Wisconsin residents outside of Milwaukee. Research documents that lead in soil is a source of lead exposure for children because it creates a fine dust that is easily tracked into the home and ingested by very young children. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes primary prevention of lead exposure, focused on eliminating sources of lead in the environment, including soil, before exposure can occur.

As urban agriculture, including residential gardening, is increasingly used as a means to transform and empower communitites, the environmental health risks associated may not be well-known to residents. Project partners aim to establish an innovative, multi-level approach to build knoweldge and capacity to reduce soil lead concentration in two Milwaukee neighborhoods, filling an important gap in current primary prevention efforts and expanding on linkages between organizations working in urban agriculture, healthy food access, and neighborhood redevelopment. The project will seek to demonstrate the effectiveness of soil and landscape interventions, expand environmental health literacy education and access to soil testing, and create awareness of environmental policy necessary to sustain real change.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Expanded the partnership to include the City of Milwaukee Health Department and Milwaukee County Extension to increase public health capacity to reduce soil lead concentration and bioavailability

• Engaged adults and youth in 24 environmental health literacy workshop(s) to increase knowledge and intentions to practice safe gardening and engage in lead poisoning prevention

• Tested the effectiveness of soil and landscape interventions implemented at 67 properties in Milwaukee neighborhoods, utilizing results to inform best practices in safe urban gardening

• Increased understanding among stakeholders of the implications of current policies regarding urban residential gardening

• Engaged commitment towards further policy formation to mitigate health risks associated with backyard gardening

• Leveraged approximately $160,000 in funding from other sources

• Leveraged approximately 3,208 in-kind hours from partners

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