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Volunteers needed: data cleaning

March 21, 2016 @ 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

The Children’s Environmental Health Unit of the North Carolina Division of Public Health has requested volunteers to help with data cleaning of blood lead test results from children.

Volunteers are needed for multiple shifts. Lunch will be provided and volunteers will also be trained to complete the tasks needed. Volunteers may sign up for one or as many shifts as their schedule allows.

Sign up online to volunteer.

If you have any questions, please contact Jessica Southwell at jessica.southwell@unc.edu. You will receive more information regarding your volunteer shift once you have completed the sign up (please allow one business day for follow-up).

All laboratories in N.C. are required to report blood lead test results for children less than six years of age and for individuals whose ages are unknown within five working days of test completion. Test results from the State Laboratory of Public Health, LabCorp and Mayo feed directly into the program’s surveillance system. Test results from all other laboratories must be manually processed to conform to certain file specifications before uploaded to the system.

Therefore, there is a lag time before these results are incorporated. In addition, the availability of a point-of-care (POC) blood lead analyzer has resulted in a growing number of healthcare provider offices also serving as blood lead laboratories. Data quality from many of the POC laboratories is incomplete or inaccurate, requiring considerable follow-up time. Due to loss of personnel and other resources, monitoring of file submissions has been inadequate for the past few years, resulting in a considerable back-log of follow-up for incomplete or inaccurate lead testing data.

With the recent events in Flint, Mich., bringing to light the importance of constant blood lead surveillance and analysis, the evident need for prompt data cleaning becomes even more urgent. Therefore, the Children’s Environmental Health Unit requests a team of detail-oriented public health students to provide much-needed assistance to work through the existing mountain of duplicates and events with incorrect addresses.

Volunteer Tasks

  • Assign counties to blood lead test results for N.C. children, using a geocoder and other tools provided.
  • For test results with no address, contact the provider to get address information for the child.
  • De-duplicate people with similar names (e.g. hyphenated vs. unhyphenated)

Additional Information
Students will learn data cleaning methods and get firsthand experience with raw data as it is collected.  Learning about the challenges of data collection and surveillance is invaluable to students who will be future researchers and who may have only worked with “sanitized” classroom datasets thus far.


March 21, 2016
9:30 am - 4:30 pm
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