Green and Healthy Homes Initiative

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By Ruth Ann Norton

In today’s economic circumstances, many public health and housing department officials face rising challenges of increasing need and decreasing budgets: how to do more with less. Through an integrated, holistic Green and Healthy Homes intervention strategy, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) is producing homes with reduced energy consumption costs that yield better health, social and economic outcomes for occupants and their children. Equally, investment in the development of Green and Healthy Homes is creating a pathway to higher quality employment and wealth building through sustainable “green collar” jobs and small business ownership opportunities for residents of targeted communities.

In Baltimore, the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning’s GHHI is a comprehensive, cost-effective program that is delivering integrated energy efficiency, weatherization, health, safety and lead-hazard reduction assessments and interventions in low- to moderate-income homes. GHHI ensures that the homes that need services the most will not be left out but instead will be made greener, healthier and more affordable. Through workforce development and training, GHHI is also creating new jobs and enhancing the skill set (energy auditing, energy retrofitting, IPM, lead-hazard reduction, safety) of residents and existing contractors in Green and Healthy Homes trades.

The coalition’s Green and Healthy Homes Initiative is not only creating jobs, reducing energy costs and addressing home-based health hazards, it is leading the way in re-managing how the government and the private sector expend available resources. GHHI requires that cities undergo programmatic change that streamlines their intake process and reengineers their service delivery systems. By maximizing efficiencies, the GHHI approach is achieving cost reductions that allow the project to generate greater return on investment and actually produce additional interventions from those savings. With average costs savings of 25 percent per house in time, labor and materials through the integrated GHHI approach, a fifth house can be completed by the program without any additional cost for every four houses that are completed.

Short-term savings include cost reductions in energy-consumption costs; health care costs related to asthma and carbon monoxide poisoning; and fire safety. Long-term savings will include reductions in energy costs, health care costs from preventing trips and falls and lead poisoning, and property maintenance costs, among others.

Through the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, the coalition’s efforts and other similar efforts in 10 initial sites across the county are creating benefits for all stakeholders: Families benefit by gaining access to multiple services at once at a reduced cost and a reduction in the inconvenience of interruptions for work crews to access the home; service providers benefit by reducing overlapping work and directing limited resources to where they matter most; workers benefit by receiving additional skills, training and wages; and government agencies benefit through more comprehensive and coordinated interventions that are performed at lower costs resulting from the increased efficiencies.

More information on this subject will be presented at the Omaha Lead and Healthy Homes Conference hosted by Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, on March 15 and 16 in Omaha, Neb.

 

Norton will be speaking at the Omaha Lead and Healthy Homes Conference on March 15 and 16 at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Milo Bail Center. The conference, hosted by Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, will bring together local and national experts in lead poisoning and healthy homes to target information to landlords, health care providers, real estate professionals, homeowners and renters, teachers, parents, contractors and social service providers. One of the conference’s keynote speakers will be Kim N. Dietrich, Ph.D., M.A., professor of environmental health and the director, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. His talk will highlight cutting-edge research on the links between childhood lead poisoning and violent criminal behavior later in life. The secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also scheduled to speak. For more information and to register, please visit http://www.omahahealthykids.org or call (402) 934-9700. Early registration for the conference is $50 before March 7.

 

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