Written by: Sophie Mariam, NASCSP Intern
June is National Healthy Homes Month, an awareness campaign to emphasize the link between a safe home and the health of individuals and communities. The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) plays a key role in making homes more livable and healthy for at-risk families. Beyond its primary mission of improving energy efficiency in low-income households to reduce energy costs, weatherization has numerous health benefits, including mitigating asthma triggers and reducing doctor’s visits and health care expenses.
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) announced that this year’s theme is “Growing Up Safe and Healthy: 5 Minutes to a Healthy Home.” HUD chose this theme to emphasize the importance of protecting current and future generations of children from harmful exposure to lead from contaminated paint, dust, and soil. By upgrading heating and ventilation systems, weatherization can decrease particulates, pollutants, mold, and other allergens, leading to less asthma and allergy symptoms. WAP can help create healthier homes for families and children, improving health outcomes relating to respiratory and other health issues.
The health benefits of weatherizing a home may also include fewer heat or cold related deaths, as vulnerable families can turn to unsafe fuel sources when they have difficulty paying their energy bill. Residents of weatherized homes also report better mental health due to decreased financial stress and more comfort. The National Evaluation by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that 33% of individuals reported improved health of household members after their home was weatherized. Three US studies of low-income homes where energy efficiency work was conducted showed 12% fewer asthma related emergency department visits. Mental health of residents also improved due to weatherization assistance; the DOE Weatherization Assistance Program National Evaluation observed a 48% reduction in the days during the previous month that residents reported poor mental health.
The health benefits of weatherization and residential energy efficiency were monetized in the WAP’s 2015 evaluation performed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. According to the evaluation, every DOE WAP dollar spent resulted in $4.50 in benefits. These include $1.72 in energy savings, which can instead be used by low income families to pay for medical bills, food, or other necessities, as well as $2.78 in non energy benefits including health and safety. On average, the total health-related savings in each weatherized unit were $14,148, demonstrating how the WAP program creates more livable and financially secure homes to ensure the safety and health of communities.
States can also expand their WAP program to provide even more comprehensive solutions to mitigate health risks through a Weatherization Plus Health approach, a model that links low-income energy, health, and safety services together effectively. A Weatherization Plus Health approach was first pioneered in 2003 by the Opportunity Council, a Community Action Agency (CAA) that operates in Washington State. The goal of the initiative was to give individuals and families access to home repairs beyond basic weatherization to address health issues such as asthma or lead poisoning. Washington first funded a statewide Healthy Homes Pilot Program from 2016 to 2017, and continues to expand its investment in healthy, safe and energy efficient low-income weatherization that allows for improvements that help children and adults combat asthma and other health issues. A case study on the initiative by Washington State University found that 67% of asthma patients in weatherized homes saw improved respiratory control.
Across the country, many states are working to implement a more comprehensive Weatherization Plus Health approach, designed to go beyond the health and safety measures traditionally included in WAP. The Weatherization Plus Health model aims to facilitate strong partnerships between WAP and Healthy Homes providers nationwide. This builds on the inherent health benefits associated with energy efficiency, while utilizing the highly skilled and trained WAP network to provide additional Healthy Homes services.
Visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website to learn more about National Healthy Homes Month 2019, and view the 2019 NHHM Resource Toolkit to help spread the message this month.
Suggested Social Media Posts
You can utilize the following pre-made social media posts and infographics for Facebook and Twitter.
-Healthy Homes & Why We Need Them (Download)
-The Health Benefits of Weatherization (Download)
- Almost 26 million people in the U.S. are living with asthma today. Learn how weatherizing your home can help reduce asthma triggers and symptoms https://nascsp.org/wap/waptac/wap-resources/weatherization-plus-health/about-weatherization-plus-health/ #NHHM2019 #WeatherizationPlusHealth
- June is National Healthy Homes Month! Learn how weatherization can make homes healthier and safer here: https://nascsp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Home20Rx20The20Health20Benefits20of20Home20Performance20-20A20Review20of20the20Current20Evidence.pdf and follow along with @HUDHealthyHomes for info and upcoming events #NHHM2019 #WAP #HealthyHome
- Studies show increasing the fresh air supply in a home improves respiratory health. Weatherization can reduce mold and remove asthma triggers. Learn more here: https://nascsp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ORNL_TM-2014_345.pdf and HUD.gov/HealthyHomes @HUDHealthyHomes #NHHM2019 #HealthyHomes
- Is your home healthy? Learn more about healthy homes, asthma, and lead at https://nascsp.org/wap/waptac/wap-resources/weatherization-plus-health/about-weatherization-plus-health/ and HUD.gov/HealthyHomes @HUDHealthyHomes #NHHM2019 #WAP #HealthyHomes
In the U.S. today, people spend close to 90% of their time indoors. National Healthy Homes Month (NHHM), created by HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH), is an outreach campaign designed to help people connect the dots between their health and their home. This year’s overarching theme “Growing Up Safe and Healthy: 5 Minutes to a Healthy Home”, focuses on the importance of home assessments, and the impact awareness can have on your health; and to empower people to make change in order to create the healthiest home possible for their family. #NHHM2019 #HealthyHomes www.hud.gov/healthyhomes
Currently, millions of U.S. homes have moderate to severe physical housing problems, including dilapidated structure; roofing problems; heating, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies; water leaks and intrusion; pests; damaged paint; and high radon levels. These conditions are associated with a wide range of health issues, including unintentional injuries like slips and falls as well as respiratory illnesses like asthma. Weatherization not only increases the energy efficiency of homes, but it also helps ensure homes are liveable and safe. Learn more about the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program here: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wipo/weatherization-assistance-program #NHHM2019 #WAP #HealthyHome
June is National Healthy Homes Month (NHHM)! NHHM was established to focus national attention on ways to keep people of all ages safe and healthy in their home. HUD developed a 2019 National Healthy Homes Month Digital Resource Toolkit; which contains many online, digital resources and materials, to assist with building awareness and implementation at the local level. Visit www.hud.gov/healthyhomes to download the toolkit. #NHHM2019 #WAP #HealthyHome