Making all city agencies protect children’s health—Preventing childhood lead poisoning
HCOP believes that everyone serving families and their children is responsible for protecting children from environmental hazards. With that principle in mind, HCOP engages in several efforts to encourage city agencies to help prevent children's exposures to toxic chemicals in facilities controlled by city agencies and in the homes of children they serve.
Lead Poisoning Prevention Citizens Advisory Committee [Committee] [1992-2005]. In 1992 HCOP sponsored legislation requiring city agencies providing children and family services to make their facilities lead-safe for small children and educate parents about protecting children from lead hazards in their environment. At HCOP's request, the legislation created the Committee to monitor its implementation. The Committee's efforts to monitor local government agencies' implementation of their mandates continued through September 2005 when the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Operations Committee considered the most recent Report on the agencies implementation of their mandates under the 1992 legislation.
The Health Code §1609 Report. At HCOP's request, the 1992 legislation requires that the Department of Public Health [Department] periodically submit a "Health Code Section 1609 Report" [Report] to the Board of Supervisors on how well city agencies are complying with mandated childhood lead poisoning prevention activities along with recommendations for improved efforts. The latest HC §1609 report was issued by the Department in December of 2003. HCOP and the Committee interviewed many of the agencies covered in the Report. HCOP prepared the Committee's recommendations made to the Department on how the agencies can improve their implementation efforts. Most of those recommendations are included in the Department's Report.
HOCP ensured that the Report did not gather dust on the shelves of the city's Supervisors. HCOP asked the President of the Board of Supervisors to prepare a resolution directed to each agency in the Report requesting that it implement the Report's recommendations. In addition, HCOP asked the Supervisor to write letters to the agencies requesting written responses to the Report's recommendations and notifying them that they will be requested to appear at a Board subcommittee hearing to describe their efforts to protect children from lead poisoning pursuant to the 1992 legislation. This procedure has proven to be effective in gaining the cooperation of the agencies in the past. As a follow up to the latest hearing, HCOP requested that each agency be required to prepare yearly lead prevention work plans as part of the City's regular budget process, and that monitoring and evaluating each agency's lead prevention work be incorporated into those plans so the Mayor, the City Controller and the public can ensure the agencies' compliance with the 1992 legislation. The request is pending in the Supervisor's office.
Integrating Environmental Health Information into the Department of Public Health's 'Well Child" programs. HCOP leads the effort to improve the Department's childhood environmental disease prevention efforts. In 2003 HCOP enlisted the help of representatives from the Committee to meet with the Deputy Director responsible for implementing the Department's disease prevention efforts. We urge that the Department become more engaged in protecting children from environmental toxins and promoting and providing healthy homes for children. We currently advocate for improved coordination between maternal, child and adolescent services in the department so that parents learn about protecting children's health wherever they enter the public health system. In addition, the Deputy Director recently agreed to explore integrating environmental health information into the Department's home visiting programs, including but not limited to home visits with parents of newborn children. The exploration began through a half-day conference with the home visiting managers and staff in June of 2004. This is just the beginning. Much more needs to be done by that Department. See the discussion about this effort in the site section entitled "Educating Caregivers through City Agencies."
Educating new parents in the city's Universal Home Visiting Project. Several years ago the city's hospitals began participating in a pilot program to establish a universal home visiting program for all parents with newborn children living in San Francisco, not just those whose children were born at the county's hospital (San Francisco General)—half of the City's newborns. HCOP is urging that the program staff include environmental health education for all parents. Home visits are ideal times to educate new parents about environmental hazards in their homes and to inspect for current hazards. HCOP also advocates that environmental health information and awareness be incorporated into pre-natal education and other maternal and child public health services. HCOP was a member of the pilot program's advisory committee before it was disbanded. Sadly, HCOP is not sure if this effort will continue.