Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)


School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name



Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. William H. Boone,

Second Advisor

Dr. Haward W. Grant

Third Advisor

Dr. Glenn S. Johnson


This study examines the relationship between the federal government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the effectiveness of this partnership when addressing environmental justice (EJ) issues for vulnerable populations. The principal objectives of the study were: (1) examining the techniques an NGO utilizes to influence public policy from the bottom-up; (2) examining the techniques an NGO utilizes to educate, bring awareness, and increase testing of childhood lead poisoning in Savannah, Georgia, and (3) analyzing the effectiveness of a government and NGO partnership. For many years, people-of-color and low-income populations have shared a lack of trust for the federal government, therefore grassroots organizations have been the voice for these populations. For the first time, the CDC Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch partnered with an EJ organization to influence policy, increase lead testing, and education of childhood lead poisoning in Savannah, Georgia. The methodology utilized for this research was a multi-method, descriptive, explanatory, case study. The Citizens for Environmental Justice (CFEJ) conducted a 6 month intervention with 40 head start parents to increase their knowledge of childhood lead poisoning and lead testing. A control group, located in the same demographic area who did not participate in the intervention, was also tested on their knowledge of childhood lead poisoning. The average test score for the experimental group was higher than the control group. The research shows that lead testing rates for the demographic area increased during the study period, and the EJ group organized a political task force comprised of elected officials and community members to influence the Savannah lead law. Eighty-two percent (82%) of the children within the experimental and control groups were tested for the first time, as a result of the CFEJ lead campaign. A limitation of the study includes the administration of the test. The conclusions drawn from the qualitative and quantitative findings suggests the federal government is more effective resolving environmental disparity issues for vulnerable populations, when partnering with EJ organizations that have a relationship with the community. Implications for future research include extrapolating the Whitehead Model to other federal government / NGO partnerships, and policies such as education, housing and transportation that impact the life of underserved populations inequitably. This study contributes to the political science literature by examining the social and economic occurrences that impact low income social groups, while applying public health and environmental justice concepts, to advance policy implementation for impoverished populations.

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