Break the Cycle program outcomes: Perspectives from a mentor


Author: Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson
Page Range: 247-254
Published in: International Public Health Journal, 15#3 (2023)
ISSN: 1947-4989

Table of Contents


I have participated in six years of Break the Cycle (BTC) projects with mentees who helped to decrease disparities in exposure to lead (Pb) in drinking water in North Carolina. These mentees’ projects documented that inequitable access to a regulated community water supply in African American neighborhoods bordering some North Carolina cities and towns exposes children to elevated water lead (Pb). One BTC mentee found elevated water Pb in 28% of homes in affected areas—a prevalence similar to that in Flint, Michigan, during the water crisis. In a large epidemiologic study (n = 34,314), another mentee revealed that living in areas without municipal water service was associated with a highly significant increase (p < 0.001) in children’s blood Pb. A third mentee measured Pb in water, blood, and dust in 75 households without community water, finding that water filters significantly decreased Pb in water and, consequently, in blood. However, there were significant racial disparities in access to filters: 38% of African and Native Americans had a filter, compared to 83% of participants of other races. A fourth mentee constructed a socioecological model showing that high Pb in water in these communities compounds risks among a population demographic group (African Americans) that also is disproportionately exposed to Pb from other environmental sources. Data collected through these projects helped one community win its battle for community water service, resulting in a 70% decrease in Pb in drinking water. The projects inspired mentees to pursue additional graduate training and careers in environmental health research and consulting. Keywords: Break the cycle, environment, training, mentorship, United States

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