Boston Housing Authority

Departments > Planning and Real Estate Development > Healthy Homes

Healthy Homes Initiatives

Boston Housing Authority (BHA) strives to keep residents healthy through a variety policies and practices. In order to promote healthy lifestyle goals, BHA has long-term partnerships with several health non-profits, universities, community-based organizations and public agencies. 

For more information, please contact John Kane at (617) 988-4107 or TTY: (800) 545-1833 ext. 420.

There are/have been several important health-related initiatives at BHA, including:

Asthma Intervention: Project LEAP 

The Lenox Environmental Assessment Project (LEAP) was a community-based intervention study using Community Health Workers (CHWs) to reduce disparities in asthma rates. CHWs implemented in-home asthma education to reduce exposure to indoor asthma triggers. CHWs conducted home environmental audits and offered residents advice and tools to reduce exposure to asthma triggers. This project took place at the Lenox, Camden and Alice Taylor developments in Roxbury in partnership with the Boston Medical Center.
 

Environmental Exposure Exploration and Mitigation Study 

The Environmental Exposure Exploration and Mitigation Study compared levels of pesticide exposure among children using traditional methods and newly implemented integrated pest management methods. This study measured pesticide levels to evaluate if impacts can be reduced with new methods. This was conducted at the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments Development in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health.

FreshAir 

FreshAir was part of a research study in partnership with the New England Research Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital to analyze the impact of exposure to tobacco smoke in non-smoking, English or Spanish speaking adults who lived in public housing before and after the implementation of the smoke-free housing policy. The smoke-free housing policy was implemented across all BHA communities in September 2012. This study took place at Franklin Field, Mary Ellen McCormack, Alice Taylor, Orient Heights, Mildred C. Hailey Apartments, Charlestown, and Ruth Barkley.

Green Public Housing Benefits: BRIGHT Study 

Boston Residential Investigation on Green and Healthy Transitions (BRIGHT) was a collaborative study in partnership with the Committee for Boston Public Housing and the Harvard School of Public Health. The study sites were Washington Beech, Old Colony and Ruth Barkley – all public housing developments that moved toward green living. Study teams administered a health survey, conducted environmental sampling, and visual inspections. One year later, the study teams returned  to determine if there were  energy savings by going “green” and that resident health, comfort, and satisfaction were improved. Results documented significant reductions in particulate matter in the “green” homes compared to control homes, fewer reports of pests, mold, and inadequate ventilation, as well as significant energy savings.
 

Healthy Pest-Free Housing Initiative (2006 - 2010)

The Healthy Pest Free Housing Initiative (HPFHI), which grew out of the Healthy Public Housing Initiative (HPHI), reduced environmental health risks and asthma through safer pest management. Through education, outreach, and systems change, HPFHI reduced pest infestation, while changing individual and community pest control practices.

HPFHI was funded through grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The funding supported:

  • The employment of BHA residents in 15 public housing developments as Community Health Advocates to provide multi-lingual health education addressing asthma and tobacco use

  • BHA staff to ensure sustainability of a pest management program

  • Development and distribution of educational materials to reinforce the message

  • A pesticide buyback program

  • A campaign to alert local merchants to the dangers of illegal pesticide use

HPFHI was managed by the Boston Public Health Commission and involved a diverse coalition of partners, including the Boston Housing Authority, Committee for Boston Public Housing, West Broadway Task Force, Asthma Regional Council of New England, Boston Urban Asthma Coalition, Massachusetts Public Health Association and the Boston University School of Public Health.
 

Healthy Public Housing Initiative (2001 - 2005)

The Healthy Public Housing Initiative (HPHI) began in 2001 as a community-centered project designed to engage public housing residents in a collaborative process to improve their health and quality of life. Earlier studies conducted with Harvard, Tufts, and Boston University noted connections between indoor environmental conditions and resident health. The HPHI study found that BHA pest control practices in 2001 were leaving traces of multiple pesticides found in dust found in apartments. The Healthy Public Housing Initiative conducted interventions designed to reduce environmental health hazards – especially asthma triggers –  and measured the changes in health status of children with asthma after completion of the interventions.

The interventions were helpful in reducing environmental hazards and improving quality of life but faced different challenges to expand the intervention more broadly. The study recommended integrated pest management as the single intervention with the most potential to be implemented broadly and have the biggest impact with the most efficient use of resources.  
 

Integrated Pest Management Impact Study 

The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Impact Study was a partnership among BHA, Boston Public Health Commission and the Committee for Boston Public Housing that built on the work of the Healthy Public Housing and Healthy Pest Free Housing Initiatives. Study partners examined whether the intensity of IPM affected health outcomes at 17 BHA family and elderly disabled developments. The hypothesis of the proposed IPM Impact Study was that public housing which receives more intensive IPM activities would experience more substantial health benefits and more sustained improvements in indoor environment quality.  
 

Integrated Pest Management Specification 

Integrated Pest Management Specification (IPM) is a partnership among residents, BHA staff and the pest control company used by BHA. IPM aims to use the most effective methods of pest control, with efficient results and the least risk to residents. The IPM specification includes hiring a tenant coordinator and holding a community meeting with the pest control company to define roles and responsibilities. The program also calls for annual inspections of every unit, sealing all cracks and crevices, and actively treating and preventing active pest infestations. BHA personnel try to offer an IPM training once or twice a year for residents (for those interested in the topic or perhaps as a preparation for a job as an IPM tenant coordinator) and staff (either new staff or as a refresher).
 

Smoke-Free Housing Policy

Implemented on September 30, 2012, the policy prohibits smoking in resident apartments. Violations are subject to the possibility of fines and eviction. Smoking is permitted on the premises but must be at least 15 feet away from the building. The policy was in the form of a Lease Addendum and has since been incorporated into the BHA Lease in Section 18.

Please click here to learn more about Smoke-Free Housing at BHA.

Partners in Health and Housing: Boston University Prevention Research Center

The Partners in Health and Housing Prevention Research Center (PHH-PRC), funded from 2001 to 2015 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was a partnership among researchers, community members, and public agencies. The Center’s mission was to improve the health and well-being of Boston public housing residents, and reduce health disparities by engaging residents in community-centered research efforts and prevention activities.  Although that funding vehicle has ended the group has continued to operate under the name of Partners in Health and Housing with the same mission.

BHA partnered with PHH-PRC on several important programs.

Resident Health Advocates

Participants in the Resident Health Advocate program trained on many topics, including:

  • Health assessment models

  • Leadership skills

  • Cultural competence

  • Outreach education

  • Navigating the health care system

  • Asthma

  • First aid

  • Nutrition for life

  • Mental health, depression, stress

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Upon completion of the training program, two applicants were hired to complete a paid internship with BHA.  

For more information, contact Rachel Goodman at (617) 988-4021 or Greg Davis at (617) 988-5101 (TTY: (800) 545-1833 ext. 420).

Project HEART 

This core research project extended the Resident Health Advocate model, and considered the effectiveness of RHAs who received additional training to serve as Resident Health Navigators. These Resident Health Navigators provided guidance and support to help public housing residents find their way through the health care maze. Specifically, the research project assessed whether Resident Health Navigators improved residents’ access to care offered in local community health centers after an abnormal result on a screening test. 

Oral Health Project

Oral Health Advocates were Resident Health Advocates who were specially trained to teach good oral health and to prevent dental problems in children. 

For more information about the work of an Oral Health Advocate, please contact Michelle Henshaw at (617) 638-5222 or by email

Tobacco Cessation Program (Kick It for Good)

Tobacco Treatment Advocates were Resident Health Advocates who received additional training to launch programs to help residents quit smoking. For more information, contact Dan Brooks at (617) 638-6725 or by email

Walking Program

The goal of the Walking Program was to prevent obesity and promote wellness through walking. The program was active at Ruth Barkley, Lenox/Camden, Faneuil and Old Colony. 

Resident Health Advocates organized walking groups and recruited additional participants. The Boston Public Health Commission provided pedometers and walk logs to track progress.

Contact Amanda Johnson at (617) 414-1399 or by email for more information.

With Every Heartbeat is Life (WEHL) Program at Old Colony

With Every Heartbeat is Life (WEHL) is a heart health curriculum developed by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health.  In partnership with HUD, the program aims to prevent heart disease in public housing communities by recruiting public housing residents to serve as Community Health Workers to lead health workshops in the community.  The WEHL program was implemented at Old Colony. The Community Health Workers served as health advocates in the community.  Using the WEHL curriculum, the Community Health Workers facilitated a series of heart health workshops to their fellow neighbors, coordinated weekly health promotion activities and partnered with local health organizations to provide health prevention education.
 
To learn more about the WEHL program at Old Colony, please contact Amy Tran at 617-988-4316 or by email.