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Public Health Rep. 2012 Jul-Aug;127(4):375-82.

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

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  • 1Michigan State University, Department of Sociology, East Lansing, MI 48824-1111, USA.



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.


A survey regarding potential lead exposure was administered from October 2001 to January 2003 to Michigan parents at pediatric clinics (n=3,396). 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.


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.


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.

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