Healthy homes lead to healthier people
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy, 16% of Mississippi’s houses have severe problems, such as overcrowding, housing costs over 50% of monthly income or incomplete plumbing or kitchen facilities. Poor housing conditions are linked to poor health outcomes, so addressing housing conditions is among the most important primary prevention strategies that Mississippi State University Extension educators can offer to their communities. To address these issues, Extension educators launched the Healthy Homes Initiative (HHI).
Extension specialists train agents on HHI topics, including indoor air quality, asthma and allergies, mold and mildew, carbon monoxide, lead, drinking water, home safety and accessibility, hazardous household products and integrated pest management. During the 2019 fiscal year, 16 HHI team members reached more than 17,000 community-dwelling older adults, HUD housing residents, child care providers, foster care parents, nursing students and disaster-affected residents through workshops, exhibits, newsletters, social media connections and health fairs.
Participants reported 100% increased knowledge of healthy homes principles and intention to change behaviors related to indoor air quality, asthma and allergies, mold and moisture control, safety and accessibility, hazardous household products, lead poisoning prevention and pest management. Participants pledged to use less toxic household cleaners, use a HEPA vacuum cleaner, install carbon monoxide monitors and not allow smoking indoors.
These changes in housing environments reduce asthma risk and exacerbations, falls and accidents at home related to that lead poisoning and chemical ingestion, which translates into fewer days of missed school for children, less missed worked for adults, lower health care costs for families and a lower burden on the health care system.