Healthy Communities

Our health often depends on living and working in a healthy community. A healthy community has clean air, clean water and clean soil. Children can live and play there without fear of exposure to toxic chemicals. “Healthy communities for kids are on the verge of being engineered out of existence,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We created these harmful built environments and we’re equally empowered to change them.” IKE has worked in a variety of ways to reduce environmental threats in Indiana communities.

Clean Water

The source of life on our planet, water needs our protection.
Pollutants emitted into the air and onto the land often end up in our waters, where they accumulate in sediments, plants and fish. Water is recycled in a never-ending cycle from the atmosphere, to precipitation, to our waterways, and back into the atmosphere again. Along the way, a drop of water may find its way to our faucet, into our bodies, down our drains, through our wastewater treatment systems, and back into our waterways.Children are especially vulnerable to water pollution. They are more likely to play in streams and ditches that are polluted with sewage or agricultural runoff. They also drink more water, per pound, than adults. Contaminants in water, such as lead, pesticides and endocrine disruptors, can have greater impacts on the developing brains and bodies of children.

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Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can harm the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. It is especially dangerous to unborn babies and young children, whose brains and nervous system are still developing.


Mercury is a metal that is liquid at room temperature. It has had a wide variety of uses in industry and household and consumer products. At room temperature the liquid metal evaporates, creating an odorless vapor that is toxic to the lungs and nervous system. Items containing mercury should be disposed of at your community's household hazardous waste facility.

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Sewage in Our Streams

Playing in water is a natural part of growing up, but if that water is contaminated, it can pose a health threat.
Many Indiana streams contain raw sewage from overflowing sewer systems, leaking septic systems or manure from animals. The bacteria count in these contaminated streams is often more than 100 times the national clean water standard. 

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Pesticides pose hazards, especially to children who may be sensitive to them.
IKE's goal is to reduce both pests and pesticide exposures, and to ensure that parents who are concerned about pesticide use in schools are notified so they can take appropriate action.

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Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Improving Kids' Environment works on environmental justice issues and has worked with the Martindale-Brightwood Environmental Justice Collaborative (MBEJC) in Martindale-Brightwood and the Hawthorne Center in NearWest. IKE is committed to working on environmental justice issues and has made it a key strategic directive for future programs.

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Healthy Community Resources

Our aim is to provide information to Indiana families, educators, and health care professionals to keep the children in their care healthy where they live, learn, and play.

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Lead Poisoning Prevention


Beginning 2023, Indiana expanded its lead testing requirements with House Enrolled Act 1313. This new legislation requires health care providers to offer testing to all children under 6 years old.

Prior to Indiana’s new legislation, testing rates for the state have been low. It’s estimated that Indiana only finds 2 out of every 10 lead poisoned children. Offering testing to all families gives Indiana the opportunity to find a higher number of lead poisoning cases early on. This means fewer lead poisoned children and better health outcomes for Hoosiers. 

IKE has partnered with organizations across the state to encourage families to get tested 

Children exposed to lead can suffer serious health problems throughout their lives. There is no safe level of lead in children. Even small amounts of lead can cause permanent damage. The only means by which the exposure can be detected is through testing at an early age. Every child should be tested for lead poisoning before they are six years old and, ideally, when they are one and two years old.   

To encourage more families to get tested, Improving Kids’ Environment is working with the NAACP and local Minority Health Coalitions in 10 communities in Indiana. Each community has a Healthy Child Advocate providing an on-the-ground presence for the project. These advocates take the message about lead testing to places where local parents and guardians are already going: parent groups, barber shops, beauty shops, churches, community centers, festivals, block parties, and food pantries.  

IKE and its partners aim to reach at least 600 individuals per month. The partnership will continue until summer 2024 and is part of Indiana Lead Free.  

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