Call to Action To Promote Healthy Homes Press Conference
Location – National Building Museum
DATE – 9 June 2009
Speaker #1: Welcome
Chase W. Rynd, Executive Director, National Building Museum
Welcome, everyone, to the press conference for the release of our Call to Action To Promote Healthy Homes.
Speaker #2: Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson
Thank you, Chase for that kind introduction and for hosting us here at the National Building Museum – a perfect location for today’s events.
I am pleased to be with you today to announce the release of The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Promote Healthy Homes.
The home is the centerpiece of American life. Our homes are more than just walls that surround us - held up by bricks and mortar. Our home is:
- our sanctuary after a long day’s work,
- shelter that keeps us safe from storms,
- the place where we grow our children,
- the environment that supports the air we breathe, and a..
- major contributor to our and our loved one’s health and well being.
I am here today to share important scientific information on the public health impact of unhealthy and unsafe homes - and call the nation to action to improve the health of all Americans through improved, healthy homes.
The science is clear. Healthy homes lead to healthier lives. This Surgeon General’s Call to Action outlines a national approach to healthy homes that will result in:
- Reduced heart disease rates from improved indoor air quality;
- Reduced adult injuries from preventable falls;
- Reduced asthma attacks; and
- Precious children’s lives saved from preventable fire, suffocation, and drowning.
These opportunities are too great to ignore – and no one is immune from the effects of unhealthy and unsafe homes. They affect the health of millions of people of all income levels, geographic areas, and walks of life in the U.S.
Factors that lead to unhealthy and unsafe homes include;
- how the home is designed, constructed, and maintained,
- its physical characteristics,
- the presence or absence of safety devices,
- chemical exposure, and….
- the quality of water and indoor air.
Other important factors that affect health and safety include the behavior of residents and a home’s immediate surroundings. These factors can either support or detract from one’s health.
Too often we hear tragic stories resulting from common hazards – preventable hazards - that affect the health and safety of residents; house fires caused by smoking or electrical hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning, poor lighting, lack of handrails on stairs, open upper-story windows, improperly stored firearms, poisonous substances, and inadequate supervision of children around bathtubs and pools.
No longer can we disregard the statistics documenting the impact of unhealthy homes:
- Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 38,112 lung cancer and heart disease deaths a year.
- Carbon monoxide causes 450 deaths and 15,000 emergency room visits a year.
- Death in a house fire is 50% more likely in homes without smoke alarms;
- Falls account for 54% of unintentional injuries in homes;
- And exposure to dampness/mold aggravates asthma and results in $3.5 billion dollars in health care and other costs each year.
In addition, national estimates indicate that radon gas above the EPA action level is found in 1 of 15 homes and there are 1.2 million homes with lead based paint hazards and young children.
All population groups, regardless of geography and socioeconomic status are susceptible to these hazards. However, some populations are disproportionately affected. Residents of poorly maintained homes, minority populations, the elderly, and people with disabilities are at increased risk for illness and injury.
As we move forward as a nation in enhancing the health and safety of our homes, it also our goal to reduce disparities in the availability of healthy, safe, affordable, accessible, and environmentally friendly homes.
Nearly 5.5 million disabled persons live in homes that impede their participation in community life, an estimated 2.1 million adults and 1.3 million children are homeless and more than 18 million Americans spend 50% or more of their income on rent or mortgage.
The goals of accessibility and affordability can be achieved through combined community efforts with the use of the tools and approaches outlined in the Surgeon General’s Call to Action and HUD’s Strategic Plan.
Everyone in a community has an integral role to play in ensuring healthy homes.
- Individuals can make their homes healthy by improving air quality, safely using safety devices, adequately supervising children, properly storing firearms, and controlling or eliminating toxic chemicals.
- Organizations can educate at-risk populations about the connection between health and homes, and how to identify and address home deficiencies.
- Healthcare providers can incorporate healthy housing solutions into their protocols including training of home visit staff.
- And finally, the government can help create homes that are affordable and improve people’s health.
We can prevent many diseases and injuries that result from health hazards in the home by following the simple steps outlined in this Call to Action. It is our hope that joint efforts on all levels will result in a reduction of the alarming statistics, an increase in the availability of healthy and affordable housing, and many more Americans enjoying the benefits of healthier, longer, more productive lives.
I would now like to introduce Mr. Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Sims’s passion for healthy housing was seen through his work as King County Executive. Because of his visionary leadership and accomplishments, he was chosen to help lead the HUD team under the new Administration.
Speaker #3: HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims:
Thank you, RADM Galson,
As the Surgeon General discussed, the health problems cited in his Call to Action are housing problems − and HUD is part of the solution to prevent these diseases and injuries.
‘Healthy housing’ will not happen without a concerted, collaborative effort by the Federal Government to promote and fund better housing design and rehabilitation. We know that homes are healthier if they are dry, clean, well-ventilated, pest-free, free from contaminants, safe, and well-maintained. We also know that healthy housing can be affordable housing – the cost of making homes healthy does not prevent them from being affordable.
These fixes are within reach for low and middle income families. Many of the methods HUD and CDC have identified to make housing healthier are both effective and affordable.
Our vulnerable population; children, elderly and those with disabilities deserve the opportunity to have healthy homes. Today, I am pleased to announce that HUD is publishing our Strategic Plan for Healthy Homes. The Plan details how HUD will work in concert with the Department of Health and Human Services and its partners to achieve the goals of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes. Our Strategic Plan includes methods for making both HUD assisted and unassisted housing healthier for America’s families.
It has been nearly ten years since HUD began its Healthy Homes program.
The ‘healthy homes’ approach grew from observations in the 1990s by our Lead Hazard Control grantees that homes with lead-based paint hazards often had other hazards that could – and should – be addressed at the same time. Our grantees found that it is cost-effective to address multiple health and safety hazards in housing during a single intervention.
Our Strategic Plan incorporates these and other lessons we have learned over the past ten years, and forges a new strategic direction to add to this success. When we reduce health and safety hazards in housing in a comprehensive and cost effective manner; the end results are healthier families and significant reductions in medical costs. For children with asthma, this means fewer days of school missed, and fewer trips to the emergency room. With more days in school, these children grow up to earn more as adults.
To date, HUD has awarded 101 Healthy Homes grants totaling over $81 million to nonprofits, universities, and State and local governments. This includes almost $20 million in Recovery Act grants recently awarded by the Department to continue this important work.
I am pleased with the commitment of the Department and the current Administration to lead the way along in partners to healthy housing. This commitment is shown in the budget for Healthy Homes funding, which has doubled from 2008 to the 2010 proposed budget.
Our Healthy Homes Program is working; here’s an example of the successes stories these grant dollars have:
The Neighborhood House in Seattle, WA, a non-profit grantee, teamed with local researchers and the Seattle Housing Authority to assess the benefits of improved green housing, called Breath-Easy Homes, on the health of asthmatic children. Eligible families with asthmatic children were moved into new (HOPE VI) public housing built with additional healthy homes features to improve air quality and reduce allergen exposure. The children showed dramatic improvements in asthma symptoms and reductions in urgent care visits after moving into the units. The project was featured in a PBS series on health disparities. We’re also lucky to have Neighborhood House’s Executive Director here in the crowd today, Dr. Jim Krieger. As King County Chief Executive, I was very involved in ensuring our inhabitants had a healthy place to live. The Breathe-Easy homes are a perfect example of how HUD’s Healthy Homes Program is working at the grass-roots level.
In a few minutes you will also hear from Ms. Dorothy O’Bannon, homeowner and mother of two and the recipient of a Healthy Homes intervention by The National Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning’s Safe at Home Program, partially funded by a HUD Healthy Homes grant. Ms. O’Bannon reports that since the intervention, her children’s asthma conditions have improved, and she has not had to take them to the emergency room due to asthma attacks.
We are already making progress achieving some of the objectives in the Strategic Plan. Our Offices of Public and Indian Housing and Healthy Homes will release a joint Notice that strongly encourages the adoption of smoke-free housing policies by Public Housing Authorities. This is especially important in multiunit buildings because exposure to secondhand smoke is a known health hazard and smoke can travel throughout multiunit buildings. Smoking also increases maintenance costs and is a major cause of building fires.
I want to inform you about the four key goals of HUD’s Strategic Plan for Healthy Homes:
- Building a National Framework:
- Creating Healthy Housing through Key Research
- Mainstreaming the Healthy Homes Approach
- Enabling Communities to Create and Sustain Healthy Homes
HUD’s Strategic Plan for Healthy Homes will serve as a dynamic roadmap for developing, disseminating, and integrating the healthy homes concept. This will result in healthier homes for the nation, and enable HUD to continue to ensure an adequate supply of healthy and affordable housing for America’s families.
I would now like to introduce to you Dr. Howard Frumkin, the Director of the National Center for Environmental Health/ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Frumkin is an internist, environmental and occupational medicine specialist, and epidemiologist.
Prior to joining CDC in 2005, Dr. Frumkin was a professor and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Emory University. He has been actively involved in numerous committees dedicated to improving environmental health. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Frumkin…
Speaker #4: Director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; Dr. Howard Frumkin
On behalf of the new CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
I am Dr. Howard Frumkin, Director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. It is with a great honor that I am here to support the release of Acting Surgeon General Galson’s “Call to Action To Promote Healthy Homes.”
As represented by the speakers and audience here today, the Surgeon General’s “Call to Action To Promote Healthy Homes” is supported by wide inter-agency partnership including HUD, EPA, SG, and HHS.
- We all believe that working to Promote Healthy Homes will equal Healthier People.
- Healthy Homes intersects with President Obama’s directive to green America (energy efficiency/weatherization).
CDC supports this Call to Action. In our efforts to Promote Healthy Homes, we rely on the core public health functions. These core public health functions serve as a framework for discussing pertinent challenges posed by the need for Healthy Homes and guide our public health activities to address these challenges.
- This year our Research and Workforce Development Agenda addresses the public health issues around Healthy Homes.
- CDC is actively engaged in research to identify housing factors that can harm or promote and protect peoples’ health and demonstrates that Healthy Homes are feasible, cost-efficient and beneficial.
- CDC is developing a Healthy Homes surveillance system to monitor and track housing factors that effect health, building on existing data systems and surveys.
- CDC, in collaboration with the USDA, HUD, EPA, and DOE, has developed and implemented a variety of training programs to ensure a consistent ‘baseline’ understanding of Healthy Homes principles across federal agencies, at the state and local level and among health care and housing professionals.
CDC believes that ensuring that the nation’s homes are safe, healthy, affordable, accessible and environmentally friendly will have a direct, immediate and measurable effect on the health of the nation. And we have much expertise and fund several activities in the area of Healthy Homes including Programs on:
- Environmental Health Services
- To Promote Healthy Aging
- Food Safety
- Health disparities (Successfully addressing disparities in access to housing will contribute to reducing important health disparities. Our early focus is low income, rural, and temporary.)
- Healthy Community Design
- Health Effects of Smoking
- Injury and Violence Prevention
- Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention which has recently expanded into Healthy Homes
Speaker #5: Homeowner Mrs. O’Bannon:
Thank you, Dr. Frumkin
I am a homeowner, with two children residing in a 1925 constructed, two story row home in Baltimore, Maryland. I have lived in this home since I was five years old. My daughters are 2 and 11 years old and have been diagnosed with asthma and are treated by a pediatrician at Sinai Hospital. They are medicated for asthma and my youngest daughter has been taken to the emergency room or hospitalized 10 times due to severe asthma attacks.
I found out about the Coalition’s Safe at Home Program through a referral from the Baltimore City Health Department. The Coalition’s team came to my house and conducted an Environmental Assessment and Lead Risk Assessment of the property. They provided education for me, and developed a Scope of Work to address the health hazards in the home. My home received an intensive level Healthy Homes intervention by the Coalition’s Safe at Home Program which included: integrated pest management (for mice and roaches), indoor allergen reduction clean, installation of mattress pad and pillow covers, installation of an Austin Air air filtering unit in the child’s bedroom, and lead hazard reduction treatments (including replacement of 11 windows). To reduce household injury risks a safety kit was installed including smoke alarm, carbon I was also provided with a HEPA-Vacuum and an indoor allergen/lead dust prevention cleaning kit (bucket, mop, replacement mop head, sponges, cleaning solution, and gloves) to sustain the intervention. The asthma conditions have improved for my children and I have not had to take them to the emergency room due to asthma attacks since the intervention.
I also know first hand the effects of lead poisoning. A cousin of mine, who is now a young adult, often stayed in the home when he was growing up and he had an EBL of 48 ug/dl many years ago. He suffers from learning disabilities.
I am pleased with the services provided and the level of professionalism of the Coalition’s Program staff. I am grateful that there are programs such as this to help people.