It began with a collaboration between the West Broadway & Franklin Hill Task Forces, Boston University School of Public Health, Tufts School of Public Health, and the City of Boston Public Health, working together to discover why so many families in the BHA’s South Boston and Dorchester developments were struggling with asthma.
Together, experts and residents alike began studying the correlation between the indoor air environment at selected BHA developments and resident health. West Broadway concentrated their studies on the effects of smoking, while Franklin Hill experimented with mattress covers and industrial cleaning. Results from both studies indicated an undeniable need for more extensive research and about how both BHA and residents could have a positive impact upon the health of the resident community.
After the pilot studies, the partnerships presented their findings to the BHA and invited the Harvard School of Public Health to the project. This juncture, in 1999, marked the historic collaboration between the three Boston schools of Public Health to collaborate with residents, BHA, and other partners in pursuit of funding and solutions for healthy housing. A year later funds were awarded by HUD, Kellogg Foundation, Boston Foundation, and Cox Foundation--and the Healthy Public Housing Initiative (HPHI) officially took shape.
The goal of the four-year program was to improve the well being of residents by studying the correlation between asthma and respiratory health and housing environments. The HPHI team used various research methods to compile data including an environmental assessment survey, health and housing interventions, and pre-and post health assessments for tenants.
A key theme emerged from this work, as the collaborative began to focus upon the impact of pests on resident health and quality of life. A pilot program to find strategies to eliminate and control pests was conducted at both the Holgate and Charlestown developments. The program, utilizing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods, proved to be very effective in controlling pests. Recently, a $2 million Kellogg Grant was awarded to a reconfigured HPHI collaborative to help BHA to bring an effective IPM program to all of its developments. A key to the project’s success over the past several years has been a comprehensive collaboration with residents. Over the course of the project, 20 residents were trained to conduct surveys and unit inspections in their roles as Community Health Advocates (CHA). Participants took classes taught by a local health outreach worker job-training program. They also received specific training, covering such topics as asthma symptoms, health sampling, and peak flow lung function testing. By giving residents the opportunity to make an active contribution to their communities, treatments became more effective and HPHI could better monitor its progress. In addition, CHA’s received critical job training that could be marketed once the project ended.
By understanding conditions within developments, implementing interventions to improve surroundings, and re-evaluating the enhanced environments, the HPHI team has helped to change practices at the BHA, as well as promote healthier housing for residents.
In the future the BHA plans to maintain prevention programs, identify and educate current and future leaders among residents and expand partnerships to address health needs for residents.
Efforts by all who contributed to the studies show that institutional support and funding for health-focused interventions can make a difference in residents’ health. Because of the HPHI team, many BHA residents’ developments now have healthier living conditions, job training, and an improved quality of life.
To learn more about healthy public housing, visit the websites below:
Boston Public Health Commission
Asthma Regional Council
Parners in Health and Housing Prevention Research Center
Integrated Pest Management
In 2006, several residents were trained to become Integrated Pest Management (IPM) educators to help evaluate and provide solutions for residents with pest problems. The program began as five-year pilot program in the Charlestown and Holgate developments with the Center for Healthy Homes and Neighborhoods at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH). The goal of the pilot program was to develop a comprehensive system to control pest problems without using harmful pesticides. At the end of the pilot, research found that an IPM system that includes the help of building managers, residents, maintenance workers and pest control contractors, is the best mechanism to control and maintain pests.
Residents chosen to become IPM educators were recommended by the task force members in their respective developments. The educators, who are also public housing residents, are able to inspect homes for pest activity, assess problem conditions and recommend solutions after receiving 16 hours of training.
The IPM program was first made possible through a grant awarded by the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute. Recently, the BHA was awarded a $2 million grant from Kellogg to further implement the IPM system.
For more information, read the article below about the IPM program.