Making the invisible visible: Developing and evaluating an intervention to raise awareness and reduce lead exposure among children and their caregivers in rural Bangladesh

Tania Jahir, Helen O. Pitchik, Mahbubur Rahman, Jesmin Sultana, A. K.M. Shoab, Tarique Md Nurul Huda, Kendra A. Byrd, Md Saiful Islam, Farzana Yeasmin, Musa Baker, Dalia Yeasmin, Syeda Nurunnahar, Stephen P. Luby, Peter J. Winch, Jenna E. Forsyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Lead exposure is harmful at any time in life, but pre-natal and early childhood exposures are particularly detrimental to cognitive development. In Bangladesh, multiple household-level lead exposures pose risks, including turmeric adulterated with lead chromate and food storage in lead-soldered cans. We developed and evaluated an intervention to reduce lead exposure among children and their caregivers in rural Bangladesh. We conducted formative research to inform theory-based behavioral recommendations. Lead exposure was one of several topics covered in the multi-component intervention focused on early child development. Community health workers (CHWs) delivered the lead component of the intervention during group sessions with pregnant women and mother-child dyads (<15 months old) in a cluster-randomized trial. We administered household surveys at baseline (control n = 301; intervention n = 320) and 9 months later at endline (control n = 279; intervention n = 239) and calculated adjusted risk and mean differences for primary outcomes. We conducted two qualitative assessments, one after 3 months and a second after 9 months, to examine the feasibility and benefits of the intervention. At endline, the prevalence of lead awareness was 52 percentage points higher in the intervention arm compared to the control (adjusted risk difference: 0.52 [95% CI 0.46 to 0.61]). Safe turmeric consumption and food storage practices were more common in the intervention versus control arm at endline, with adjusted risk differences of 0.22 [0.10 to 0.32] and 0.13 [0.00 to 0.19], respectively. Semi-structured interviews conducted with a subset of participants after the intervention revealed that the perceived benefit of reducing lead exposure was high because of the long-term negative impacts that lead can have on child cognitive development. The study demonstrates that a group-based CHW-led intervention can effectively raise awareness about and motivate lead exposure prevention behaviors in rural Bangladesh. Future efforts should combine similar awareness-raising efforts with longer-term regulatory and structural changes to systematically and sustainably reduce lead exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111292
JournalEnvironmental research
Volume199
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Child lead exposure
  • Cluster randomized trial
  • Health education and promotion
  • Lead chromate
  • Lead-soldered cans
  • Nutrition
  • Prenatal lead exposure
  • Turmeric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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