The predictive value of self-report questions in a clinical decision rule for pediatric lead poisoning screening

Stan A. Kaplowitz, Harry Perlstadt, Gail D'Onofrio, Edward R. Melnick, Carl R. Baum, Barbara M. Kirrane, Lori A. Post

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective. We derived a clinical decision rule for determining which young children need testing for lead poisoning. We developed an equation that combines lead exposure self-report questions with the child's census-block housing and socioeconomic characteristics, personal demographic characteristics, and Medicaid status. This equation better predicts elevated blood lead level (EBLL) than one using ZIP code and Medicaid status. Methods. A survey regarding potential lead exposure was administered from October 2001 to January 2003 to Michigan parents at pediatric clinics (n53,396). These self-report survey data were linked to a statewide clinical registry of blood lead level (BLL) tests. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated and then used to estimate the cost-effectiveness of the equation. Results. The census-block group prediction equation explained 18.1% of the variance in BLLs. Replacing block group characteristics with the self-report questions and dichotomized ZIP code risk explained only 12.6% of the variance. Adding three self-report questions to the census-block group model increased the variance explained to 19.9% and increased specificity with no loss in sensitivity in detecting EBLLs of $10 micrograms per deciliter. Conclusions. Relying solely on self-reports of lead exposure predicted BLL less effectively than the block group model. However, adding three of 13 self-report questions to our clinical decision rule significantly improved prediction of which children require a BLL test. Using the equation as the clinical decision rule would annually eliminate more than 7,200 unnecessary tests in Michigan and save more than $220,000.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-382
Number of pages8
JournalPublic health reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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