Throughout July, BioIQ and its strategic partners Advance Health and LabCorp, worked with Walmart to offer free lead testing services to children in the greater Flint, Michigan area. Problems with Flint’s municipal water system have made national headlines in the last 18 months, prompting many local families to seek medical care for children who had been exposed to lead in aging pipes.
“The goal of the program was to connect as many children as possible with free lead testing services,” said Pete Desai, Executive Vice President, Corporate Development and Marketing, BioIQ. “Thanks to Advance Health, LabCorp and Walmart, we were able to provide screening services to at-risk children and hopefully, give some families peace of mind or direct them to the next steps for additional care.”
Lead poisoning poses significant, long-term threats to a child’s health. According to WebMD, side effects of elevated lead levels can take anywhere from three to five years to materialize and can cause a host of irreversible problems such as stunted growth, brain damage, kidney damage and hearing problems. In many cases, the damage is lifelong.
What’s more – Flint is not the only city affected. Nearly every major U.S. city and many surrounding areas have experienced high lead levels in the past 15 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least four million U.S. households have been exposed to high levels of lead. Equally concerning, CDC data suggests that screening rates vary greatly across counties and states.
“We’re very pleased that LabCorp could participate in this opportunity to help the people of Flint,” said Mark Brecher, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for LabCorp Diagnostics. “Lead poisoning can occur with no outward symptoms, and testing is often the only way to identify children who have been exposed and are at risk of lead poisoning. LabCorp’s fingerstick testing method worked well to bring this important test directly to children who otherwise may have gone untested.”
Recognizing an opportunity to help at-risk children in Flint, BioIQ, Advance Health and LabCorp formed a partnership to leverage their technology solutions and healthcare expertise. The three companies worked with Walmart to launch “Pledge No to Lead,” a campaign offering free lead screening for children ages 1-6 at select Walmart stores throughout July and lead-prevention resources for parents. Advance Health nurses administered the fingerprick test and results were mailed or emailed to parents, depending on their preference. Testing was free and appointments were not necessary.
“Advance Health was thrilled to be part of such an important initiative, especially since the program falls within our scope of delivering actionable information to individuals and their doctors to improve care,” said Thayer Montague, Vice President, Business Development, Advance Health. “It was a quick and painless way for children to get tested without having to go to the doctor. The convenience, coupled with the multiple testing locations, enabled more families to take advantage of the program.”
Each organization played a vital role in the campaign’s success: Walmart donated space at its stores in Flint, Burton, Clio and Grand Blanc; BioIQ developed the mobile app used by onsite nurses to streamline screening; LabCorp donated the lab kits and processed the samples; and Advance Health provided nurses to administer the tests.
“Our associates are proud to help children in Flint have access to free lead testing,” said Alex Hurd, Walmart Senior Director of Health & Wellness. “As a company we always want to use our strengths to help the communities we serve, especially in times of crisis.”