MetroHealth Recognized Among Top Finalists for National Heath Care Equity Award
The MetroHealth System was named a finalist for the 2022 Bernard J. Tyson National Award for Excellence in Pursuit of Healthcare Equity for its efforts to increase the number of children who are screened for lead exposure in the Cleveland community.
The Joint Commission and Kaiser Permanente established the award in 2021 in memory of Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson, who dedicated his career to addressing inequities in health care.
MetroHealth’s submission focused on its Lead Initiative to improve childhood lead screening in high-risk urban communities through targeted programs and partnerships with organizations at the city, county and state levels.
Children who are exposed to lead are at risk for long-term health problems, including damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavioral issues and slowed growth and development. A major source of exposure is lead-based paint common in older housing stock – the homes typically inhabited by low-income families.
Through a blood test, providers can determine a child’s level of exposure. Those who are found to have high levels of lead in their blood are followed closely by their primary care pediatricians to track possible health issues, and the family is referred for an environmental investigation of the home to identify potential sources of lead.
In 2019, a MetroHealth review found that only 57% of its Medicaid patient population had completed a lead blood test by their 2nd birthday.
A team led by Pediatrician Matthew Tien, MD, and Manager of Population Health Jennifer Conti, RN, recognized that making a separate visit to a lab or providers office for the test is a challenge for children’s caregivers who lack reliable transportation or have to take time off work for appointments. So, the team developed a plan for providers at MetroHealth’s main campus to collect blood samples for lead testing during routine pediatric visits. That practice is now standard at all MetroHealth pediatric sites.
The Institute for H.O.P.E.™ also recently launched a pilot program that aims to prevent lead exposure in newborns through interventions during pregnancy. Pregnant patients are tested for lead exposure and given a brief survey to determine if hazards may be present in the home. Community Health Workers follow up with at-risk patients to help connect them with resources to address any hazards.
The MetroHealth Lead Coalition was established to formalize these programs and partner with other organizations at the local, county and state levels that work to screen for and prevent lead exposure.
Since the initial review in 2019, MetroHealth’s rate of screening its pediatric Medicaid patients by their 2nd birthday rose from 57% to 70% in 2022.
“The harmful effects of lead exposure are well known,” said Matthew Kaufmann, Executive Director, Population Health and Care Coordination. “It is imperative that we screen as many children as we can so, if there is a problem, it can be addressed. With these initiatives in place, we know we are achieving that goal.”
As a finalist for the Joint Commission and Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson National Award for Excellence in Pursuit of Healthcare Equity, MetroHealth was invited to submit a research paper describing its lead-screening initiative for possible publication in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.
“Working to correct disparities in health care for the most vulnerable among us has been our mission at MetroHealth since we were founded 185 years ago,” said Nabil Chehade, MD, MSBS, Executive Vice President, Chief Population and Digital Health Officer. “It is gratifying to be recognized among the top health care organizations in the United States for all that we do to ensure health care equity for our neighbors.”
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through four hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our 8,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit metrohealth.org.