MON AM News: Study draws connection between lead exposure and gun violence; Wisconsin Partnership Program providing $6 million in grants

— A recent study from UW-Milwaukee researchers draws a connection between exposure to lead in early life and later gun violence.

After accounting for various factors such as sex, race and economic status, study authors found that higher levels of blood lead levels were associated with increased risks of both perpetrating and becoming the victim of violence. 

Importantly, the likelihood of experiencing violence as a victim or perpetrator increased in each higher category of blood lead, the study shows. 

“Effective lead exposure prevention strategies already exist, and we know that there is no safe level of lead,” said Lindsay Emer, the primary author for the study. “This research provides further urgency to fully support these efforts with the resources that are needed.”

The study relied on data from nearly 90,000 Milwaukee residents born in the city between June 1986 and December 2003 who had their blood tested before age 6. It was performed at the university’s Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health. 

Emer says this was the first study to hone in on this link between childhood lead exposure and gun violence later in life.  

Milwaukee’s health department recommends all children get at least three blood lead tests before age 3. And the state Department of Health Services recommends universal testing for all children living in Milwaukee and Racine — particularly for those living in older houses.

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— The Wisconsin Partnership Program is providing $6 million in grants to initiatives seeking to improve health equity in the state, including several working toward better outcomes for minority groups. 

The Community Impact Grant program is coordinated by WPP, which is part of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Each recipient is receiving $1 million over the next five years. Dr. Amy Kind, an associate professor of medicine, is chair of the Partnership Program’s oversight and advisory committee. 

“The health of a community, like a building, depends on a strong and stable foundation,” Kind said. “We know access to healthy food, access to healthcare, quality education and strong social supports are a few of the many factors that strengthen this foundation and contribute to positive health outcomes for everyone.” 

Each of the awarded initiatives are focused on solving a specific problem. For Centro Hispano of Dane County, that problem takes the form of psychological stress linked to “racial, cultural and linguistic isolation and stigmatization.” 

The group will use the grant funding to improve access to culturally relevant services for Latino residents by boosting the number of mental health professionals working with these communities. The initiative also includes the UW-Madison School of Education and involves training Spanish-speaking students to bolster the area’s overall public health workforce. 

Another initiative from the Menominee Nation will “create a renewed food system” through improved access to nutritious food, education surrounding livestock and agriculture, as well as traditional cultural teachings. 

This effort aims to promote health food consumption at a time when tribal members have significantly higher rates of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease than the state average. Starting with enacting food safety regulation of “traditional tribal food systems,” the tribe will work to promote economic development. 

Meanwhile, United Way of Dane County will use the new funding for an effort to improve birth outcomes for African American babies in the state. Working with the Dane County Health Council, United Way has set a goal of reducing racial disparities in infant mortality and low birthweight, as well as supporting families overall. 

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— A fundraising campaign led by the Medical College of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital has raised 93 percent of its $225 million goal, according to a recent release announcing the public launch of the campaign. 

The release on the Hope to Health campaign shows these organizations have been working toward this goal since July 2015, and aim to complete the fundraising effort by December 2020. The funding will be used to advance biomedical research, expand education and workforce development efforts and support community health initiatives. 

MCW and Froedtert are looking to grow their basic science and translational research programs in the fields of neuroscience and cardiovascular health, as well as investing in advanced precision medicine and data science. 

Since the campaign started more than four years ago, more than 20,000 donors have contributed and 38 of those donors contributed more than $1 million. As of Oct. 15, the campaign had raised $209.5 million. 

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— A recent report from Milwaukee Women Inc. found the number of companies with more than three women on their boards increased 25 percent this year. 

The group claims studies show companies with three or more female directors perform better than those with a lower number. 

The report also shows the percentage of women holding director seats on the boards of the state’s 50 largest public companies hit 20.8 percent — up 10 percent from 2018, and exceeded a goal set by MWI of 20 percent board representation by 2020. 

Thirty percent of those 50 businesses have three or more female directors, which is up 25 percent from last year. 

Still, just over 21 percent of board seats of Wisconsin S&P 500 companies are held by women, compared to 26.7 percent of all S&P 500 in the United States. 

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— The largest year-over-year rent growth for Wisconsin cities in September was seen in West Allis, where average rent increased 8.4 percent since last September.

The latest monthly rent report from RentCafe shows West Allis rents increased by $77 over the year, reaching $998 in September. The second largest increase over the year was in Menomonee Falls, where rent increased 6.2 percent to reach $1,277, for an increase of $74. 

Meanwhile, the smallest rent increase was seen in Verona, where prices increased 0.5 percent from September 2018 to reach $1,243, for an increase of $6.  

Across all Wisconsin cities, the average rent is generally lower than the national average, the report shows. 

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