Maps of Changes in Patterns of High-Lead Tests Shows Neighborhood Group Where to Focus House-To-House Investigations

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 29, 2011

Since 1998, the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee (NPCM) has been tracking the progress of lead abatement programs by analyzing lead testing results for Milwaukee neighborhoods. They receive record level data on all tests conducted (approximately 12,000 tests per year). They geocode, analyze, and map the test results (see Exhibit 6). These maps and analyses have continued to demonstrate the success of City’s lead abatement and lead testing program. They have helped to justify the continuation of funding and support for the lead testing program. The maps are provided to aldermen and community organizations by the health department.

Two neighborhood associations also use these data, and additional products from the NPCM in their organizing and outreach work. The Lisbon Avenue Neighborhood Development Association (LAND) and the Dominican Center receive ‘walk lists’ from the NPCM. LAND is a housing and community development organization. The Dominican Center is a Catholic Charity with a mission to improve the lives of young women, including providing them with safe and healthy neighborhoods in which to live.

The walk lists notify community organizers which homes have completed the abatement process in their neighborhoods. Data elements include: when the house was built, number of rooms in the house, and if the house has been declared officially abated by the health inspectors. LAND and Dominican Center staffs use these lists and maps to walk the blocks and identify which houses and other buildings may be at risk so that they can try to solve the problem directly; for example, by enrolling them in a city program to fund the replacement of their windows. In addition, through personal contact with persons residing in the structure, they have identified houses and other buildings that have refused health inspectors who try to conduct testing. In these cases, staff have often been able to help the residents overcome cultural barriers or other concerns behind their reasons for refusing the inspectors.

Exhibit 5: Sample Lead Poisoning Map

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Todd Clausen and MIchael Barndt of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee. The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee was the MIlwaukee partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network coordinated by the Urban Institute, at the time of the story. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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