Healthy Kids
In Healthy Homes

“We didn’t have a systematic community commitment to really address the issue. We had individual programs that moved along their separate pathways, but it wasn’t a community imperative. Childhood lead poisoning had reached epidemic proportions.”

Terry Allan,
Cuyahoga County Board of Health Commissioner


 Scroll down for an overview of the background, challenges and
outcomes of this long-term initiative.

Why must our community 
solve this health issue?

Lead can damage a child’s brain, causing behavior problems, learning problems and slow growth.


Research also shows that lead poisoning has been linked to behavioral disorders among youth, low school achievement, hyperactivity, delinquency, adult crime and violence.


High levels of exposure can cause respiratory
problems, developmental delay
, coma – even death.

85% of Cleveland homes were built before 1950
and most likely contain lead-based paint.

Lead can be present in:

Whether inhaled or ingested, even a small amount of lead is enough to
cause poisoning. Although medical treatments can remove lead from a
person’s system, it is often impossible to repair the damage,
and the consequences can be devastating.

A community issues
a call for action.
Infrastructure and 
plans are developed
• Saint Luke’s Foundation 
issues a Request for Proposals 
for Healthy Kids in Healthy Homes Program (HKHH).
• The Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council (GCLAC) and subcommittees were established.
• A consumer website was developed.
• A working plan was developed. 2004-2005 
A campaign kicks off 
to raise awareness
• Lead Safe Living, a program within the Healthy Kids in Healthy Homes initiative, teaches landlords, contractors and even healthcare providers about lead poisoning, testing and prevention.
• Volunteers and initiative stakeholders passed out fliers at community centers, churches, grocery stores, churches,
and also used word of mouth to spread the word about testing and repairs.
• Property owners were encouraged to take effective and lawful action in relation to lead-safe standards and practices.
In 2004, one out of five Cleveland children tested 
was found to have lead poisoning. 
Training kicks off, 
and work begins
• The GCLAC coordinated development of
a trained workforce to perform lead-safe maintenance work in Greater Cleveland.
• Contractors are hired to implement changes in homes throughout affected neighborhoods.
• Workers are to trained to perform lead-safe maintenance work.
• By 2006, more than 1,000 community members and healthcare providers are trained in lead testing and lead-safe maintenance and removal. 2005-Present
Expanded testing begins 
for children at risk for 
lead poisoning
• The number of tests given grows steadily, as well as the range of providers who test children in
affected neighborhoods. 2007
The Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council (GCLAC) adopts stringent new lead safety standards

Of the nearly 40,000 children tested, almost 8,000 of them showed elevated blood levels. And of those, 6,000 of them were under six years old.


Sandra Kiely Kolb
Saint Luke's Foundation
Board Member

people have been trained in lead testing
and lead-safe maintenance and
removal since 2006.

Results and the road ahead.

More than 23,500 children are now tested annually for lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning among Greater Cleveland kids is down 67%
from 2004 and down 89% since 1997.

Community development agencies receive matching funds
from federal grants to repair other home hazards.

Thousands of low-income children in our community will not have to face the additional challenges created by lead poisoning in reaching their full potential.

Many homes still have lead hazards in Cuyahoga County, but families,
landlords, contractors and medical providers are better equipped to combat
this preventable childhood illness.

In 2014, Environmental Health Watch assumed the lead coordination role in combating home health hazards throughout Greater Cleveland neighborhoods.


“Over 10 years, we made remarkable progress...”

Terry Allan
Health Commissioner, Cuyahoga County Board of Health

11327 Shaker Blvd. Suite 600W, Cleveland, Ohio 44104

(216) 431-8010