New program hopes to engage community in new approaches to healthy housing

 by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, October 2015) Residents and stakeholders in the Stockyard, Clark Fulton, and Brooklyn Centre (SCFBC) neighborhoods will soon have an opportunity to participate in a pilot program called Engaging the Community in New Approaches to Healthy Housing (ECNAHH).

The program, which just received a BUILD Health Challenge Grant from a group of national funders, hopes to have an impact on both local and national policies and practices to help assure healthier home environments. The ECNAHH aims to reduce unhealthy and unsafe conditions in housing that cause or contribute to lead poisoning, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary (heart) disease (COPD).

ECNAHH is one of only 18 recipients nationally of BUILD Health Challenge Grants and one of only seven to receive implementation grants (the eleven other organizations received planning grants).

According to the BUILD Health Challenge website, the grants are designed to improve the well being of community residents by encouraging partnerships among local nonprofit organizations, hospitals and health systems and health departments. To that end local nonprofit organization Environmental Health Watch partnered with MetroHealth Medical Center and the City of Cleveland Department of Public Health to apply for the BUILD Health Challenge Grant.

Environmental Health Watch Executive Director Kim Foreman says other key partners that will be involved in the implementation of the program include: Stockyard, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre Neighborhood Development Office; the City of Cleveland Department of Building and Housing, Hispanic Alliance, the Spanish American Committee and Cuyahoga PlaceMatters. Other partners offering assistance to the effort include: the City of Cleveland Planning Department, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Greater University Circle, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Cleveland Housing Court and the Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga.

Foreman says the BUILD Health Challenge grant of $250,000 over two years required a local match from a hospital of cash or in-kind services. MetroHealth Medical Center agreed to provide the local match with a combination of cash and in-kind services. Stockyard Clark Fulton Brooklyn Centre and Environmental Health Watch are also providing in-kind match.

The funders supporting the BUILD Health Challenge grant are The Advisory Board Company, the de Beaumont Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. On their website, the funders described the award recipients as “18 groundbreaking projects that aim to improve health in low-income communities. The projects were recognized on the strengths of their BOLD, UPSTREAM, INTEGRATED, LOCAL and DATA DRIVEN approaches to address the social and environmental factors that have the greatest impact on health.”

Environmental Health Watch Executive Director Foreman cites the goals of the BUILD Challenge Grant as she emphasizes data will be used to inform where the resources from the grant will be used. She said the partners involved in the grant would decide together as a team how to roll out the program. Foreman hopes to work with the partners in the project toward “a team approach to solutions.” She emphasized that “the people most impacted need to be part of the approach and the solutions.”

In choosing the Stockyard, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods as the target for the Engaging the Community in New Approaches to Healthy Housing, Foreman emphasized, “Residents have to be involved in how we roll this out,” she said. She then noted a number of assets in the Stockyard, Clark Fulton and Brooklyn Centre neighborhoods that will help with community engagement. SCFBC is already involved in housing issues, has a housing committee on which local residents participate, and a relationship with the City of Cleveland Building and Housing Department. MetroHealth Medical Center has been engaging the community around their Transition Plan. The Hispanic Alliance and the Spanish American Committee are also engaged in leadership development in the neighborhood, she said.

The pilot program hopes to engage the community in implementing two approaches to healthier homes, says Foreman. One is to use referrals from health care providers of asthma patients to provide home visits to 25 homes. The goal of the two or more home visits would be to reduce asthma triggers in the homes. Foreman says Environmental Health Watch has worked with Dr. Dorr Dearborn of the Swetland Center for Environmental Health at University Hospitals on the Case Healthy Homes and Patients Project to develop a model for home visits that provides a standard of care to asthma patients while reducing health care costs and hospitalizations by 58%.

The second approach involves selection of twenty-five homes for a proactive home visit that will lead to preventive measures that create healthier homes. This effort will involve the SCFBC Housing Committee, SCFBC Housing Specialist Kris Harsh, and the City of Cleveland Building and Housing Department. This effort will also look at housing policies in other cities in hopes of coming up with a local housing policy that can help create Healthy Home Zones. The intent is that these Healthy Home Zones will eventually be replicated in neighborhoods throughout the region.

Foreman says some of the conditions that create unhealthy homes include: roaches, mice, pests, mold, water intrusion, dust, deteriorating lead paint, contaminated carpet and polluted indoor environments.. Some of the health issues related to unhealthy homes include asthma, lead poisoning, and unintentional accidents.

Foreman says one of the goals of the pilot project is to work with the partners and neighborhood residents to create a model that can be replicated in other neighborhoods both locally and nationally. She said there would also be an effort to ensure equity among various groups during the implementation of the program. Sandra Byrd Chappelle of Strategic Solutions Partners, a member of Cuyahoga PlaceMatters, will work with the partners to evaluate the overall process and help assure health equity principles are included in the project implementation.

Editor’s Note: For more information about BUILDHealth, contact Environmental Health Watch at 216-961-4646.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: