(Washington, DC) -- The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) recently launched the city’s first Healthy Homes program, designed to identify and assess environmental health threats to children and pregnant women and provide customized solutions to eliminate them. Through this program, DDOE will evaluate 100 hazardous homes with children, 18 years and under, who have been hospitalized with asthma, and an additional 100 homes with at-risk children or pregnant women.
Asthma, the disorder caused by inflammation in the airways that lead to the lungs, affects more than 26 million Americans, ratcheting up an estimated $18 billion per year in health care costs, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (2012).
In the District of Columbia, more than 400 children are hospitalized because of asthma problems each year.
Many of these children’s severe asthma problems result from exposure to environmental hazards such as mold, major infestations of rodents and insects, poor ventilation and allergens that trigger asthma attacks in the home.
Other hazards identified and mitigated through this program include carbon monoxide, lead and asbestos. Though such hazards have historically been addressed through a variety of District agency programs, this is the first time the District has engaged in a consolidated, holistic approach.
DDOE performs home assessments using certified Healthy Homes Specialists. The assessments form the basis for strategic case management in which existing DC grant programs and code enforcement efforts are leveraged to ensure quick repairs or customized solutions to eliminate them. In a select number of cases, DDOE and program partner, the National Nursing Centers Consortium, will provide up to $7,000 to fund hazard mitigation.
“Too many of the District’s most vulnerable residents live in homes that contain environmental health threats,” says Christophe A.G. Tulou, director of DDOE. “Through the healthy homes program, we are able to work in partnership with our sister agencies to help identify and eliminate those hazards. This is good government in action.”
Referrals for the program come from local healthcare providers including IMPACT DC, an asthma research and treatment specialty unit within Children’s National Medical Center. Other program partners include the Department of Human Services’ Strong Families program and the Department of Health’s Healthy Start program, both of which refer cases to DDOE involving the presence of severe environmental hazards (mold, deteriorating paint, safety hazards, pest infestations, etc.) identified in the homes of at-risk families. After DDOE conducts its home assessments and provides its analysis of the home health threats it identifies in each home, referrals may then occur from DDOE to two other sister agencies that are collaborative partners in this pilot program: the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, to follow up on any pressing code enforcement concerns, and the Department of Housing and Community Development for potential enrollment in home repair and/or lead abatement grant programs.
To further support this program, DDOE has also launched an interactive webpage on home hazards that result in health problems. The site helps District residents obtain information about health risks that exist within their home environment. The site includes healthy homes topics such as lead, mold, second-hand smoke, pest infestations and radon and features an interactive house that details the different areas of the home where hazards such as carbon monoxide may be found.
To access the interactive webpage, visit www.dchealthyhomes.com