Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ)
Often, public health initiatives face a data gap – the connection between the numbers and the people representing those numbers. For example, broad health data like the rates of lead poisoning, asthma and obesity give a snapshot, but may not provide meaningful insight on how those families and children are impacted. As a result, service providers, government leaders and policy makers may be implementing an intervention without a complete picture.
To help address this gap, the Healthy Homes Subcommittee of the Believe in a Healthy Newark initiative asked Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) to conduct focus groups with parents of young children on their knowledge of lead and asthma interventions and pre-existing knowledge about healthy homes.
The first focus group yielded some surprising and humbling responses. The participants, all parents of preschoolers ages 3-5, provided insight into what obstacles exist to implementation of lead and asthma interventions:
- Participants possessed a strong knowledge of the effects and causes of lead exposure and asthma – many had a family member personally impacted by these health issues. In this group, lead and asthma education efforts seem to have worked.
- Participants did not demonstrate a strong knowledge of resources available for: lead testing, lead remediation, free blood lead testing for children, or school-based asthma resources. Although multiple parents indicated that they had peeling paint in their home or that they had a child with asthma, none mentioned prevention programs.
- Participants were largely renters, which meant that housing conditions often depended on the landlord. Landlord control over general maintenance, pest control, heating and cooling, and security deposits put tenants in a difficult position when it came to requesting repairs or inspections.
- Participants suggested more community-focused and person-to-person approaches to getting information out about lead and asthma interventions. They suggested meeting families where they are – in churches, barbershops, parks and neighborhood events – rather than hope that passive information finds them.
Focus groups are non-scientific and sample sizes may not always be representative. But listening directly to parents and families in the community we serve is invaluable in implementing effective solutions.