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MSU scientists develop more effective method of predicting lead-poisoning risk
Date:3/2/2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. As health departments across the United States seek a better way to determine which children should be tested for lead poisoning, a method created by Michigan State University scientists has proven to be more accurate and cost-effective than current strategies.

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended an end to universal testing for children on Medicaid as long as state and local health departments are pursuing other methods of assessing the risk of elevated blood lead levels. The existing strategy relies primarily on Medicaid status and classifying ZIP codes as high or low risk.

The MSU risk assessment based on a decade of research is considerably better, according to an article in the March-April issue of the journal Public Health Reports by Stan Kaplowitz and Harry Perlstadt, MSU professors of sociology, and Lori Post, a former MSU researcher now at Yale University.

"The key benefit of our method is that it identifies even more of those children who need testing and will lead to fewer unnecessary tests," said Kaplowitz, principal investigator on the project. "Hence it will improve the health of children and families at less cost to the taxpayers."

The researchers created risk scores for more than 500,000 children in Michigan who were tested for lead poisoning from 1998 to 2005. The scores are based on race, Medicaid eligibility and statistics about the socio-demographic characteristics and age of the housing in the child's neighborhood. The researchers found that their scores would have been better predictors of whether a child should be tested than the criteria used by the universal testing method.

If Michigan health officials had used the researchers' risk assessment, the method would have saved about $153,000 between 2002 and 2005 by not administering thousands of tests that came up negative, the researchers say. At the same time, the new meth
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Contact: Stan Kaplowitz
kaplowi1@msu.edu
517-353-6745
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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