In the early 1980s, the New York State Department of Health, Center for Environmental Health recognized that housing hazards were often complex and were best addressed by a neighborhood-level approach. As a result, the Center developed the Healthy Neighborhoods Program in 1985 — a statewide program aimed at improving housing conditions in high-risk communities through a holistic, healthy homes approach.
This program relies on an extensive network of grant-funded, local health department partners and emphasizes home environmental management as an enhancement to case management and clinical care. Local health departments initially identify target areas in the community for intervention and develop work plans to meet the specific needs of that area. These health departments are also encouraged to leverage local resources and infrastructure to ensure that the services delivered are meaningful and effective.
During home visits, field staff members assess a wide variety of healthy homes issues, including tobacco control, fire safety, lead poisoning prevention, indoor air quality, asthma control, injury prevention and more. Following the assessment, residents are provided with products, referrals and education to help remediate any potential hazards identified during the assessment. A quarter of homes receive a three-to-six month follow-up visit to reassess conditions. Any new or ongoing problems identified during the revisit are addressed.
This program has had incredible success for residents with asthma, with marked improvements in environmental triggers, including a 14% reduction in environmental tobacco smoke exposure and improved pest control in at least 44% of homes with pest problems. There have also been significant improvements in participants’ knowledge about asthma triggers and significant decreases in the number of days with worsening asthma and in the number of work or school days missed due to asthma.