New Grant for Healthy Homes Initiative

The Fanny Holt Ames and Edna Louise Holt Fund just awarded a 3-year grant for $270,000 to SEVCA for a new Healthy Homes Initiative. The program will serve vulnerable, low-income residents of Windham and Windsor Counties whose inadequate housing conditions exacerbate existing health conditions and/or represent serious health or safety risks. This includes elderly and/or disabled residents who require home repairs or modifications to prevent falls and enable them to age in place; residents suffering from asthma, COPD, or other respiratory illnesses worsened by poor indoor air quality; and other low-income households that cannot afford the repairs needed to ensure a safe, healthy home.

The Healthy Homes Initiative represents an evolution of SEVCA’s Emergency Home Repair Program (EHRP), which has been in operation for the past 10 years. Introducing the Healthy Homes Initiative creates a tighter link between improvements to the home environment and their effect on the health conditions of vulnerable residents in our service area, thus ensuring effective targeting of resources and demonstrably greater positive health outcomes. It also allows for a more comprehensive intervention to address multiple needs for repairs and improvements affecting the health of residents within the home, extending beyond the limited scope of our existing funding sources.

Eligible home repairs and improvements for the program will include (but not be limited to): pest control, mold remediation, Vermiculite removal, vents, air filters, carpet removal, debris removal, lead abatement, floor and stair repairs/replacements, addition of ramps and handrails, emergency plumbing repairs (e.g. frozen/burst pipes), water quality interventions (wells, failed water and/or septic systems), correcting code violations, roof repair, and other repairs necessary to maintain integrity of the building envelope.

Repairs/improvements are expected to average $2,000 - $2,500, but the cost for each home will vary due to the extent of the need. Approximately 65 households per year will be served, and both homeowners and renters may be eligible, including mobile home owners. For more information about the Healthy Homes Initiative, please contact Ed Hogan, EHRP Coordinator, at (800) 464-9951.

WHY ARE HEALTHY HOMES IMPORTANT?

While most U.S. health care expenditures have emphasized access to clinical health care and treatment, growing evidence argues for a greater focus on the social determinants of health; i.e., the social and environmental factors that influence individuals’ health status, the efficacy of treatment plans, and health care costs. Social determinants of health include whether individuals have access to basic needs such as safe and adequate housing, nutritious food, livable income, good education, etc. An estimated 70% of an individual’s health status is linked to environmental and behavioral factors like these, according to the New England Healthcare Institute (https://www.nehi.net/publications/32-the-boston-paradox-lots-of-health-care-not-enough-health/view). Meanwhile, increases in chronic conditions that should be easily treated, such as asthma, and preventable accidents such as falls, are major factors in increasing healthcare costs. A variety of interventions have been developed to address different facets of this problem, among them Healthy Homes initiatives. These have typically focused on relatively low-cost interventions for individuals suffering from chronic conditions caused or exacerbated by poor-quality indoor environments or individuals at risk of preventable injuries or other avoidable negative health outcomes.

In 2009, the National Center for Healthy Housing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the evidence and assessed which interventions could be considered evidence-based, versus those that needed more field evaluation or formative research, or those that were ineffective (https://nchh.org/resource-library/report_housing-interventions-and-health_a-review-of-the-evidence.pdf). Many of the interventions identified were featured in various Healthy Homes initiatives that began to be implemented around the country.

Our program, focusing on improving the quality of living environments for low-income, vulnerable individuals, is expected to have a lasting effect on improved health outcomes for people who lack the resources to address the issues that have a negative impact on their health or increase their health risks.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead