Occupational Health Nursing MS student, Diane Busch-James, spent the summer working with the City of Cincinnati Health Department to plan the implementation of a CDC funded Healthy Homes program for the low-income population of Lower Price Hill. The program addresses home issues that affect health such as mold, rodent and cockroach infestation, pet dander, smoking, lead, sewer gas, mercury, formaldehyde and other VOC’s, child safety, fire safety and injury prevention in the elderly.
The CDC estimates that there are more than 6 million substandard houses and apartments in the U.S. These conditions place the residents at increased risk for asthma, injuries, falls, childhood lead poisoning and other toxin induced illnesses. The Healthy Homes program takes a comprehensive approach and requires the Health Department to look at the entire home environment. It is felt that education and remediation can significantly reduce the exposures and thereby reduce the costs and number of medical and emergency visits, and, overall, provide the residents with a higher quality of life.
The program incorporates concepts such as the use of Integrated Pest Management. The use of pesticides and rodenticides has added to resident exposures to chemicals, particularly in multi-family housing units. IPM teaches residents elimination of sources of food, water and harborage and choice of the least toxic products to destroy the invading insects or vermin. The program advocates resident uses of cleaning products that are less hazardous, particularly those that give off less VOC’s, but are still effective in the elimination of dust, allergens and infectious agents.
Revisions were suggested for the Sanitation Code to incorporate Healthy Homes concepts. The program will not depend on voluntary compliance. Owners will be cited for leaking structural and plumbing issues. Ventilation will be required in all bathrooms to remove excessive moisture and with all gas appliances, dryers, stoves, and heaters. Residents will be cited for excessive clutter and cleanliness issues that contribute to infestation.
Research was completed in locating successful existing programs throughout the U.S. and in finding educational materials appropriate to the population. Development of understandable, population appropriate materials is essential to increasing the knowledge of the residents and to the overall success of the program. Many cities have implemented the program with success and they are willing to share the details of their programs. With materials provided, the Health Department will be able to contact other health departments for information and easily develop the educational component of the program.
Theory-based interventions were also addressed, as the program will require both increased community awareness along with individual interventions. The sanitarians were given a basic knowledge of Diffusion of Innovations Theory and the Transtheoretical Model. These theories will help with dissemination of information into the community and with individual behavior changes. Of particular concern in this program is the exposure to secondhand smoke in the home. Interventions will include increasing the resident’s knowledge of the effects of secondhand smoke on children and referrals to smoking cessation programs.
Overall, much was learned from the employees at the Health Department who are dedicated and committed to improving our health. They spend many hours inspecting city restaurants, tattoo parlors, some very nasty residences, and even our own University dining facilities. Many thanks to Assistant Health Commissioner, Dr. Camille Jones, who heads the Community Health and Environmental Services Division and who promotes collaborative efforts with the University Education and Research Center.
Two new sensor technologies are being added to the research capability of the ERC.
Several ERC students and faculty participated in an interdisciplinary trip to scenic West-Virginia in June. The destinations included NIOSH in Morgantown, Beckley Mine Health and Safety Academy, and Beckley demonstration coal mine. In Morgantown, the group was greeted by several former ERC students who currently work at NIOSH in Morgantown.
Students from Occupational Health Nursing and Environmental and Occupational Hygiene participated in the presentation by Dr. John Howard, former director of NIOSH and currently a special consultant to the agency. He discussed the changing nature of work and workers. There was lively discussion during the session, viewed in the Howard Ayer Computer Laboratory on August 26.