Children are at the Heart of Jackson, MS

April 1, 2021
Smiling toddler boy in Jackson MS

Mississippi has suffered from racial injustices for centuries. And, since the early 1900s, we’ve known that babies and children in Mississippi – including our capital city of Jackson – have higher cases of lead poisoning. 

Recently, Mississippi showed the tenth-highest number of children with high lead levels, and the single largest jump from 2009 to 2015, from 3% to 6% of children testing “high.”

Exposures to lead and other toxic chemicals create barriers to learning, speaking, and motor skill development. Many of us in Jackson have taken a stand to protect our residents and children — because removing lead from our water is not only beneficial for babies, but for everyone in our community. 

One Voice, a non-profit organization based in Jackson, MS, seeks to magnify voices of traditionally silenced communities in the South.  We work to build a foundation to address oppressions present in institutions significant to our lives as well as the lives of our children. With funding from the Bright Cities program, OneVoice conducted a study about how to make changes that can reduce the exposure to chemicals that harm babies’ brain development. 

Our first step was to understand residents’ current perspectives. Our team surveyed mothers, expecting mothers, or guardians about what they do at home to prevent exposure to lead poisoning and to other neurotoxic chemicals like cleaning products, household pesticides, and others. The survey was conducted primarily at local daycare and Head Start programs and is available on our website.

We collected over 215 survey responses. We found that 33% of mothers and guardians are not aware of how to protect their children from lead. Thirty-seven percent of recipients were uncertain whether their child had been tested for neurotoxic chemicals, including lead.  

So, One Voice conducted an educational webinar with North Jackson Elementary School about how to breastfeed during COVID and how to reduce children’s exposure to lead and other neurotoxic chemicals. The webinar was conducted by Kimberly Ramsey, the state breastfeeding coordinator from the WIC Program. One Voice will host a second webinar with North Jackson Elementary School to discuss lead poisoning prevention and Healthy Homes Program led by Jacqueline Crosland. 

We also shared information with residents about how to keep the home clean with non-toxic supplies on hand. And, we helped retrofit a local childcare center called Jacob’s Ladder through toxic-free childcare training and new paint, serving over 100 children.

One Voice also partnered with Jacob Ladders Center for Learning I and II, a local daycare center. We shared practical strategies in the form of a checklist with the childcare providers about reducing neurotoxic exposures and supported a painting project to replace chipped paint. “We learned a lot from this project to help our children thrive further,” said Mrs. Linda Stuckey, the daycare owner. “We plan to share this learning with parents and other providers in our network.”

Moving forward, we will continue to provide cleaning products and school supplies to North Jackson Elementary School. And, in partnership with the City of Jackson, we will continue our community outreach education campaign related to healthy cooking and cleaning so that all the children of Jackson have the healthiest start in life.

Interested in learning more about this project? Contact Catherine Robinson, Program Manager One Voice, Jackson, Mississippi at crobinson@uniteonevoice.org.

Is your City interested in being part of Healthy Babies Bright Futures’ Bright Cities program? To discuss this and anything else, please contact Bright Cities Program Director, Kyra Naumoff Shields at knaumoff@hbbf.org.