Cook, eat, live – more than just the food

Emma Nunan1, Charlotte Dean2, Hannah Herrmann3

1Environmental Health Centre, 117 Gertrude Street Port Pirie, SA 5540
2Environmental Health Centre, 117 Gertrude Street Port Pirie, SA 5540
3Environmental Health Centre, 117 Gertrude Street Port Pirie, SA 5540


The Port Pirie Environmental Health Centre (EHC) helps protect children from the harmful effects of lead in their environment. Port Pirie has a history of lead contamination resulting from more than 100 years of smelting in the town. There is no ‘safe’ level of lead exposure and exposure should be reduced or prevented to keep blood lead levels as low as possible. Young children and pregnant women are most at risk from the health impacts of lead exposure.

Healthy nutrition was identified as a key factor in decreasing blood lead levels for young children and pregnant women. A diet high in fibre, calcium and iron is essential to decrease the uptake and increase the excretion of lead from the body.


The Cook Eat Live program was developed to support and assist families to be able to provide more nutritional home cooked meals to assist in the reduction of blood lead levels.


EHC in collaboration with local Dietetics department and Dietetics students developed a program based on research and outcomes to increase nutritional intake to decrease blood lead levels. The program was delivered through a combination of group and one-on-one in home sessions with six participants per term. Participants were identified through social work assessments to address elevated blood lead levels and other issues related to the social determinants of health.


The program has been successfully implemented with intergenerational participation. Case studies and anecdotal evidence will be discussed demonstrating increased engagement with EHC and other services, as well as reduced blood lead levels.


Implementing the Cook Eat Live program has provided insight into family’s experiences, and reinforced the need for services to wrap around families to address multiple needs and health outcomes and build capacity for families.


Emma is the senior social worker at the Environmental Health Centre, she also has a private social work practice. Previously Emma was employed by Families SA and UCWCSA. Emma is recognised as an Advanced Accredited Social Worker by the AASW. Emma has been the elected the chair of the Early Childhood Initiatives Group on two occasions; working with an interagency multidisciplinary group to develop plans for development of the Port Pirie community. During Emma’s roles she has engaged intensively with families to alleviate risks and implement client centred case plans; focusing on paediatrics and the dynamics of families.

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