University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Posts Tagged ‘healthy homes’

Making Healthier Homes

4-H youthWhat do we mean by a healthy home? According to housing and public health experts, it is a home that is designed and maintained to support the health and safety of its residents. In his 2009 Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes, the U.S. Surgeon General stated that by improving housing conditions—for example, by reducing hazards from lead poisoning, poor indoor air quality, environmental tobacco smoke, improperly stored household chemicals, and pesticide exposure—we can improve health outcomes for residents.

Healthy homes are particularly important for Connecticut families at risk. The state’s housing stock is considerably older than the national average. Children living in older homes—especially children in low-income families, who face greater challenges of finding affordable, safe, and healthy homes—are most vulnerable to such housing-related health problems as lead poisoning and asthma. In 2013, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), more than 2,000 Connecticut children under the age of six years were lead poisoned. Black children were twice as likely to be lead poisoned as white children; Hispanic children were 1.5 times as likely to be poisoned as non-Hispanic children. During the same year, an estimated 30,000 Connecticut children in grades 6 through 12 were reported as having an asthma episode or attack. Asthma rates, too, are disproportionately higher for Hispanics and blacks. Yet both lead poisoning and asthma attacks can be prevented or reduced, often by relatively simple methods.

In 2011, DPH issued its Healthy Homes Strategic Plan, which identified public education on such issues as a major goal. UConn Extension, often in partnership with DPH, has been active for decades in helping adults and children learn how to make their homes healthier and safer—by educating people about lead poisoning, radon, clean water, pesticides, and asthma, for example. Starting in 2011, a grant from the Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) program gave a multidisciplinary Extension team an opportunity to reach out to a previously untapped but important audience: urban youths, who not only are disproportionately affected by such problems as lead poisoning and asthma but also are capable—given appropriate guidance—of improving their own home environments in important but not necessarily difficult ways. This is a five-year, half million dollar grant supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR).

While a great deal of material is available for adults and children (including materials previously developed by Extension staff and faculty), no comprehensive curriculum on healthy homes topics existed for school-age youths, particularly underserved urban youths. The Extension team designed and implemented an age-appropriate and culturally sensitive curriculum called Tools for Healthy Living. Since 2012 this curriculum has been taught at 12 4-H afterschool programs in Hartford and New Britain reaching approximately 350 youth.

Through this program, youths learn the principles of a healthy home: it is clean, dry, safe, free of pests and dangerous chemicals, in good repair, and with fresh air. A series of lessons helps them to understand the effects of problems such as lead poisoning, asthma, mold and moisture, pests, environmental tobacco smoke, and clutter, as well as to develop strategies they and their families can use to reduce or eliminate these problems. Youths also explore the four key rules of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill. A final component of the curriculum is a lesson on self-advocacy skills, helping youths to become agents for positive change in their homes, schools, and larger communities. A long-term project to be completed by youths further encourages them to share what they have learned.

Site instructors, who are carefully trained to work with urban youth, deliver the program. The site instructors are given extensive background information, resources, and detailed lesson plans. The lessons use the 4-H experiential learning model to teach youths through hands-on learning, emphasizing critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making skills. It incorporates the principles of positive youth development promoted by 4-H. Moreover, in addition to the lessons for youths, the curriculum includes take-home newsletters on each topic (in English and Spanish) so that youths can communicate important information to their families. Thus, urban youths, their families, and the larger communities can all learn how to make their homes as healthy and safe as possible. In 2015 Tools for Healthy Living was accepted as a national 4-H curriculum.

Hazardous Household Products


Are there hazardous household products in your home? Visit the Healthy Homes Partnership for more information on keeping your home safe.

Keep Pests Out!


Is your home free from pests? Visit the Healthy Homes Partnership for more information on keeping them out of your home.

Is Mold Causing You Health Problems?


Does your home have a mold problem? Visit the Healthy Homes Partnership for more information on keeping your home safe.

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer


Carbon monoxide is a silent killer? Visit the Healthy Homes Partnership for more information on keeping your home safe.

Asthma and Allergies


Are asthma and allergies a problem in your home? Visit the Healthy Homes Partnership for more information on keeping your home safe.

Is Your Home Well Ventilated?


Is your home well ventilated? Visit the Healthy Homes Partnership for more information on keeping your home safe.

Tools for Healthy Living

peer review“Tools for Healthy Living,” a curriculum about healthy homes and food safety, has been accepted as a national peer-reviewed curriculum by the National 4-H Council. The curriculum, designed for students in grades four through six who are in afterschool 4-H programs, was developed by UConn Extension as part of a 5-year Sustainable Community Project grant from USDA’s CYFAR (Children, Youth, and Families at Risk) program.

To implement this curriculum, a trained facilitator helps students explore the principles of a healthy home and learn how they can help to make their own homes and their communities healthier. According to federal housing, environmental, and public health authorities, a healthy home is clean, dry, safe, in good repair, with fresh air, and free of pests and dangerous chemicals.

kidsIn addition to explaining the principles of a healthy home, the curriculum introduces students to the following environmental health and food safety topics:

  • Lead poisoning
  • Asthma triggers
  • Mold and moisture
  • Pests and pesticides
  • Smoking
  • Clutter
  • Bacteria in food
  • Food safety and food temperature
  • Food safety and cleanliness

Students also learn how to act as advocates for a healthy home.

For more information about the “Tools for Healthy Living” curriculum contact Sharon Gray (

Another Award for Susie and Jerome

The book, Susie and Jerome Learn About a Healthy Home, has won the Healthy Homes Communication Star Award for best print medium, awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control (OHHLHC) and its partners (including Rebuilding Together, HGTV, and DIY Network) at the National Healthy Homes Conference on May 30, 2014. UConn Extension’s partners at the Connecticut Department of Public Health accepted the award in Nashville.


Learning About a Healthy Home

Joan Bothell and Mary-Margaret Gaudio, from the Healthy Environments for Children Initiative at UConn Extension, have written a children’s book. Using text along with illustrations by Kevin Noonan from the UConn College of Agriculture, the book teaches children ways to maintain a healthy living environment.
Photo by Sean Flynn, UConn