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June 1, 2017
Older adults are the foundation of our families and the safety and integrity of their homes is important to them aging well physically, mentally, and emotionally. Far too often many of the nation’s older adults struggle to stay in their homes simply because they are unable to afford the simple modifications necessary to avoid injuries, not to mention the major health and safety issues that need to be addressed. In Baltimore City many older adults have lived in their homes for decades, created memories, raised families or even inherited the home from a loved one, so many of these homes are in dire need of renovations that would improve the quality of life of the homeowner. Often there are issues with leaking roofs, malfunctioning plumbing, pest or rodent infestation, mold and/or lead paint concerns. On top of dealing with major housing renovations many older adults need modifications to existing structures in the home to make the home safe for day to day living. Modifications include sturdy hand rails on all stairs, safety seats and grab bars in the shower, raised toilet seats or motion sensor lighting. These modifications are simple but life changing for an aging adult and allow the adult to maintain their independence in a home they worked so hard to obtain. At Green & Healthy Homes Initative, we strive to provide older adults within the Baltimore City community a safe, healthy and clean home and most importantly a peace of mind. As an organization we provide interventions to reduce slip, trip and fall hazards common to the older adult population Coupled with the intervention GHHI provides education materials that promote good medication practices, healthy eating and regular exercise routines to ensure that the older adults we help receive a holistic approach to achieving a heathy home. This model of interventions coupled with education aligns with the organizations mission to break the link of unhealthy housing and unhealthy families. None of our efforts would be possible without our supporters from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, we are beyond grateful to have their support as we focus to help our older adults age gracefully in the comforts of their own homes.
September 9, 2015
Asthma is one of the most common and serious diseases affecting children. In the United States, 7.1 million, or one in every ten children, have asthma and 4.1 million experienced an attack or episode in 2011. Continuing its efforts to raise awareness about the impact of childhood asthma on school attendance, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) is partnering with Attendance Works during national Attendance Awareness Month.
This event occurs each September and recognizes the connection between school attendance and academic achievement. When students miss 10 percent or more of school days, they are chronically absent. Estimates indicate 5 million to 7.5 million students in the nation are at academic risk because of their continuing absence. Absences may be excused or unexcused, but both negatively impact academic success. Chronic illnesses, such as asthma, can make the number of missed school days number skyrocket.
Taking steps to control your child’s asthma now is one of the easiest ways to help your child’s academic success. While asthma cannot be cured, knowing its symptoms and how to prevent attacks will improve life for asthmatics and their family members.
Know the signs and symptoms
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung condition where the airways become blocked or narrowed. It presents as shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, wheezing and coughing. If symptoms are severe enough, your child may require medical attention to help restore normal breathing.
Identify and limit triggers in your home
Asthma can be triggered by mold, pests, dust mites, pet hair and dander, tobacco smoke and cleaning chemicals, all of which are present in homes and are responsible for 40 percent of all asthma attacks. These triggers release allergens into the air and cause an attack when breathed into asthmatic lungs.
The first step towards managing asthma is to reduce the likelihood of triggering an attack. Keep damp areas like bathrooms and basements clean, dry and well-ventilated to prevent mold growth. Do not smoke in your home. Vacuum often with a HEPA vacuum to reduce the buildup of dust mites, pet hair and dander. Ensure your home meets all eight elements of a green and healthy home to help prevent asthma attacks at home and keep your children healthy and ready to learn.
In December 2014, GHHI published a study of its work in the Environmental Justice that demonstrated the effectiveness of its evidenced-based interventions in improving childhood asthma symptoms. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded the GHHI Baltimore program the National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management. By addressing asthma triggers in the homes of children with chronic asthma, we have been able to reduce asthma related hospitalizations by more than 65% and emergency department visits by 28%. This study showed a 62% increase in participants reporting asthma-related perfect attendance for their child (i.e. zero school absences due to asthma episodes) as well as an 88% increase in parents never having to miss a day of work to care for a sick child with asthma.
Create an asthma action plan
Reducing exposure to asthma triggers will lessen the chance for an asthma attack, but there is always the potential of unexpectedly encountering a trigger outside the home. Pollen, strong fumes or odors and cold or dry weather can all trigger an attack. Having a plan for when your child encounters these triggers is vital. Establish an Asthma Action Plan with your child’s doctor before your child goes back to school. This document outlines your child’s triggers, the severity of their asthma, what medication to take and how often. It should be shared with your child’s school administration and nurse in case of an attack during school hours.
Many of these triggers may be encountered at school. If you have concerns about potential triggers in your child’s school or classroom, use the American Lung Association toolkit as a guide when reviewing school policies and talking to administrators. Parents can advocate for school policies that create healthy environments for learning: proper storage of food, prompt cleanup of spills and trash and the establishment of a smoke-free campus.
We invite you to help us spread awareness about the connection between asthma and school attendance before, during, and after Attendance Awareness Month. Sporadic and consecutive absenteeism are issues that must be addressed year round. Taking steps now to reduce absence due to asthma attacks will ensure your child’s success in school and your success in the workplace.
August 4, 2015
Families are the heart of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI). Our organization works collaboratively with families experiencing unhealthy housing conditions to ensure that they have the opportunity to thrive in a healthy and safe environment. Strategies to create a healthy and safe home include a combination of the following:
Lead hazard remediation within the current home
Relocation to lead-safe or lead-free housing
Asthma trigger reduction
Weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades
Repair safety hazards and structural defects
Health education and skill building
Case management including referrals and resources
Tenant’s rights assistance and legal services
Property owner assistance
Basic needs referrals
Energy assistance referrals
GHHI Baltimore's Family Advocacy Services (FAS) Department ensures that every family is directed to the most helpful information, education and services to address their needs through careful case management. Families come to GHHI through many avenues including referrals from clinical partners, community partners, outreach events, self-referrals, government partners and neighbors and friends. The client services coordinator leads each referred family through the intake process—a survey of questions about their family, home and health—to ensure that they receive the most appropriate services as quickly as possible.
Through FAS, we connect clients to programs and services that address their specific needs. Typically, families referred to GHHI have a child with an elevated blood lead level (EBLL) or asthma symptoms that are potentially linked to the home itself and/or behaviors exhibited in the home. FAS works closely with the family and landlord to ensure that the family’s current home becomes healthy or that the family is relocated to a healthy home. Lead poisoning still continues to be a serious health concern for children ages 0-6 and pregnant women. FAS case managers and family advocacy attorney explore all options to ensure that the home environment is safe and healthy.
We have had the privilege of helping a number of families with a child that has an EBLL. The services provided are based on then individual and unique needs of families. Last year we met an amazing mom who had just learned that her son had lead poisoning. Jessica was referred to GHHI Baltimore by Hopkins Children’s Harriet Lane Clinic because her three-and-a-half year old son Kamari had an EBLL of 13 µg/dL. Jessica was also seven months pregnant and essentially homeless—she constantly moved from home to home of friends and family, and all those homes contained lead paint hazards. She needed to secure a safe home for her son and her unborn child that was lead safe, yet she had little to no income since she was unable to work during the last months of her pregnancy.
GHHI Baltimore was able to provide the family with a referral for an Emergency Housing Choice Voucher through a collaboration with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. We worked with her to secure a home and negotiate the lease and security deposit with her landlord. The home was certified lead-free and had a current lead certificate this ensured that her son and her new baby daughter were in a healthy and safe home. FAS staff also provided her with education on nutrition and cleaning techniques to help lower her son’s existing lead level. After three months of teamwork she is in a safe and healthy environment and Kamari’s lead level has dropped to 8 µg/dL. GHHI Baltimore will continue to provide her with support and case management as she adjusts life as a tenant including budgeting and bill paying skills, cleaning and nutrition, job training and job searches and applying for social services as appropriate.
Jessica also participates in the GHHI Baltimore’s First Book program in which Kamari received his first home library (eight books). We explained the importance of reading to and with Kamari on a regular basis. Lead poisoning has a number of adverse effects including developmental delays and learning disabilities as well as other physical and behavioral symptoms. Strategies such as reading with your child can begin to reverse these devastating effects and start the healing process. According to Jessica, Kamari “is progressing a lot,” is now more interested in reading and is starting to point out the pictures and name the items in the books.
GHHI Baltimore provides comprehensive services to families in need of healthy housing. For more information about our services please call 410-534-6447 or email at email@example.com. If you are a community or clinical referral partner please call or email to receive information on our online referral page and password.
January 6, 2015
Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Baltimore recently launched a partnership with First Book to help improve academic outcomes for families receiving GHHI home interventions. A safe and healthy home is essential for children to succeed in school, and with the addition of a home library, a child’s educational outcomes can increase exponentially.
First Book is an international nonprofit that provides access to new books and educational resources for children from low-income families. Through the First Book Marketplace, schools and community programs working with kids in need can get books and educational resources for up to 90 percent off retail prices, thanks to partnerships with more than 90 leading publishers and manufacturers. First Book believes that reading is critical to a child’s success in life and school, but a child without books to read will not have the opportunity to become a skilled reader. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 120 million books to children in need.
In the nation’s lowest income neighborhoods, there is statistically one book for every 300 children. In middle-income neighborhoods, it becomes 13 books per child.[i] First Book and GHHI Baltimore are working together to close this gap.
How the Program Works
Last fall, GHHI Baltimore began its first delivery schedule of books from First Book. We purchased 1,860 books for children between the ages of 1 and 14 years old, selecting nine books for each age group. The books are gender neutral and range in topic from health education to classics, like the The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We also supply parents and caregivers with information on reading literacy to guide them in their efforts to help children develop strong reading skills. We asked all of our current home intervention clients with children if they would be interested in participating in the program and so far, we have only received positive responses.
As the Family Advocacy Services Manager for GHHI Baltimore, I lead this program and see that we are already making a difference in many families’ lives. I especially love dropping off the books to the clients when children are home. It is so rewarding to see the children automatically pick up one of the books and start reading.
To date, we have delivered more than 300 books to low-income families in Baltimore City. Our goal is to reach an average of three families per week, reaching more than 75 families in the next six months! We are constantly evaluating the program’s progress and hope to extend the program to other GHHI locations across the country.
Measuring Progress After Three and Six Months
Before delivering the books, the parent or caregiver fills out a survey outlining their child’s current interest in the following areas: reading at home, how many books their child currently has in the home, how often the parent reads with their child, the parent’s opinions on how important reading is to their child’s education and the child’s current level of reading in school. We plan to follow up with the parents and caregivers at three month and six months with the same survey. Changes in the interest levels of reading for both the child and the parent and whether there have been grade-level reading improvements at school are all signs of success.
Through this partnership, GHHI and First Book are turning the page on a story of unhealthy homes and academic struggles to one of healthy homes and successful futures for Baltimore-area school children.
If you are a school or program serving children in need and would like to sign up with First Book, click here.
[i] Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006
November 4, 2014
The Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) has revised its Preservation Guidelines to allow for more effective treatment options for owners in remediating lead-based paint hazards and to improve lead safe work practices in historic properties during renovations or lead remediation.
The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative has advocated for several years for CHAP to revise its Historic Preservation Guidelines to permit greater flexibility in the replacement of historic components that contain lead-based paint. These components include leaded windows, doors and trim, which can pose a hazard to children and other occupants who reside in historic properties. Unsafe work practices that disturb painted surfaces may also generate lead debris and lead dust that can cause lead poisoning through their inhalation or ingestion.
GHHI applauds CHAP and its staff, Commissioners and Committees for holding public hearings and for reviewing written recommendations from GHHI and others on how to modernize the CHAP Guidelines to permit owners to more permanently remediate lead hazards while maintaining the historic integrity of their properties. With these revisions, CHAP becomes a national leader in the reform movement and will be looked upon by other jurisdictions as they revise their policies and procedures to better address lead-based paint hazards in historic properties.
View the new CHAP Guidelines.
If you are interested in strategies on how you can reform historic preservation policies related to lead-based paint hazards or how to approach the local historic preservation office or State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in your area, contact GHHI and read GHHI’s written public comments to CHAP.