Healthy Buildings Help People with Asthma Lead Healthier Lives

Healthy buildings provide a safe and secure physical structure that helps occupants maintain their health and well-being through improved indoor air quality. Creating a healthy indoor environment can have a particularly significant impact on people who have asthma. Allergens, such as dust mites, other pests, including cockroaches and rodents, and mold are all related to asthma symptoms and unfortunately we know these triggers are ubiquitous in urban housing.

At the Boston Public Health Commission, we work collaboratively within the community to address these triggers, teach residents how to better manage their asthma and their environment, and support residents when their indoor environment is making them sick and it is out of their control. We conduct over 100 direct service home visits for families with asthma each year to help people create healthier indoor environments within their homes.

In addition, with EPA support, we established the Breathe Easy At Home program, a collaborative effort among city agencies and health care institutions. This program enables clinicians to make online referrals for housing code enforcement inspections, for their patients with asthma. A patient tells their doctor about a health concern related to their home environment, the clinician reports it, an inspection is performed, and the clinician receives continued information about the resolution of the complaint. The city of Boston is reaping the benefits of this powerful collaboration. The hospitalization rate for Boston’s children with asthma has decreased 39 percent and emergency department visits are 16 percent lower.

Attending EPA’s Communities in Action National Asthma Forum was an amazing learning opportunity for us and really helped us to solidify our vision for the future. It brings together both clinical and community-based programs and affirms that we are a continuum of care. It also allowed us to reevaluate and reprioritize our efforts and to learn from other leaders working in asthma management. It also pushed us to think about how to address asthma management from a nation-wide perspective.  I would highly encourage both new and established asthma management programs to attend the upcoming National Asthma Forum, June 9-10 in Washington, D.C. It’s an inspiring event that yields a huge return on investment.

About the author: Margaret Reid has been with the Boston Public Health Commission for twelve years and currently serves as the Director of the Division of Healthy Homes and Community Support.

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