The significant health risks associated with lead poisoning make awareness and education programs essential to every Syracuse resident, including those who don’t speak English. WCNY, the region’s local public broadcasting network, has created a way to communicate the complexities of this problem to all families, no matter the language they speak.
“Lead poisoning can cause permanent damages on our children and knowledge of those dangers gives people the power to put a stop to it,” said Debbie Stack, vice president of education and community engagement at WCNY. “We felt that expanding the languages of our awareness and education campaigns would be necessary to provide ALL families with those tools.”
According to the Onondaga County Health Department, the effects of elevated blood lead levels span from affecting children’s comprehensive learning skills to damaging the brain and nervous system. The worst part is that many families are unaware of these impacts.
With the help of a $15,000 grant from the Community Foundation, WCNY launched a series of multilingual public service announcements to ensure all families receive the same level of information. The new series will run over the course of a 3-year period and will highlight the concerns about lead paint being in people’s homes, bring awareness to the health risks of lead, feature success stories of individuals who have removed lead from their home, and inform the community about the 211 hotline they can contact for more information.
During the pandemic, the risk of lead exposure increased as many families were confined to their homes where lead is present.
“The drive to educate and inform families, especially during a pandemic, has been a challenge,” said Stack. “Some families do not have access to the major communication channels that are typically used and other forms of contact where they were receiving information have been limited because of COVID-19.”
National studies have shown that WCNY, a PBS station, is the highest rated channel to enter the homes of hard-to-reach households. The organization will use the series to spread awareness of the Community Foundation’s LeadSafeCNY initiative and will specifically focus on encouraging families to get their children tested for lead poisoning, homes tested for lead and to utilize the 211 hotline or website for more information.