Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely said today the $260,000 a year awarded to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department will have a significant positive impact on the health of the community. The Health Department received state grants for its Children's Environmental Health Protection Initiative and its Nurturing Parents Project. They were two of the first projects receiving grants from the Excellence in Health Care Cash Fund, which was created from the state's share of the 1998 federal tobacco settlement.
"Community health is a priority in Lincoln, especially for our children," Mayor Wesely said. "This funding will help us address the infant mortality issue and the environmental hazards our children may face every day."
The Children's Environmental Health Protection Initiative is scheduled to receive $145,000 a year for three years. It is designed to reduce the incidence of illness and disease in children caused by exposures to environmental health hazards and toxins. The first year of the grant will focus on a community education effort to increase public awareness of the health risks. The primary goal of the education campaign is to identify and take action against exposures in homes, schools and neighborhoods.
The second and third years of the program will be dedicated to improving medical assessment of common environmental hazards and exposures. The Health Department will work closely with the medical community to increase knowledge on why environmental toxins pose greater health risks to children than adults; what common pathways of exposure exist; and what actions can be taken to reduce these health risks. A final component of the program will offer in-home environmental health assessments and action steps to minority and low-income families.
The goal of the Nurturing Parents Project, which is scheduled to receive $115,000 a year for three years, is to reduce infant mortality. In 1998, the Lincoln and Lancaster County infant mortality rate was 8 percent, which is higher than the state rate of 7.3 percent and the national rate of 7.2 percent. Factors such as smoking, financial stress, domestic violence, teen pregnancy and substance abuse can negatively impact the health of a pregnant mother and newborn. The project will provide intensive home visitation by public health nurses to 900 at-risk pregnant women each year. Because families from racial and ethnic minority communities have a higher risk of infant mortality, the priority for intervention will be in minority populations.