The Healthy Homes Partnership is a national effort to provide information on how to keep your home safe and healthy. A healthy home supports the health and safety of the people who live there. Research indicates that there is a relationship between your health and the health of your home. CT Healthy Homes Partnership team leader Mary Ellen Welch coordinates workshops on healthy homes principles to inform groups about how to improve indoor air quality and reduce allergens and contaminants in the home, home cleaning strategies and maintaining a dry, safe, well ventilated, pest free, and thermally controlled home. She also identifies social media messages to be posted on partnership social media for awareness days, weeks and months, seasonal messages, and those that relate to current events, such as water conservation strategies during drought or winter safety tips.
UConn Student Hailee Parenteau posted a Healthy Homes Principles video in American Sign Language on the national HHP Facebook page as part of our Healthy Homes Partnership social media project. Watch the video at: http://s.uconn.edu/40u
Dr. Hyun-Jeong Lee, Associate Professor, Department of Housing and Interior Design, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju, South Korea, and Sohee Moon, Graduate Student, visited the University of Connecticut on August 24, and will be visiting University of Georgia and NIFA in Washington, D.C. to learn about the Department of Extension housing programs. Team members of the UConn Healthy Homes Partnership are Marc Cournoyer, Mary-Margaret Gaudio (in photo), Sharon Gray and Mary Ellen Welch.
The purpose of the Excellence in Urban 4-H Programming Award is to recognize outstanding efforts by members in urban programming and to strengthen the commitment to urban programming curriculum. The National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Member Recognition Committee selected the Tools for Healthy Living program as the national award winner for the competition. This afterschool program, a group effort by Extension Educators Jennifer Cushman, Mary Margaret Gaudio, Sharon Gray and Miriah Kelly, teaches fourth to sixth grade youth in Hartford and New Britain about healthy homes. The recognition ceremony is on November 16, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Since 2012, this curriculum has been taught at sixteen 4-H afterschool programs in Hartford and New Britain reaching approximately 430 urban youth. Over a two-year period, an additional 171 urban youth have also been funded through this program at the Auerfarm summer programs. This project is interdisciplinary, involving 4-H, nutrition, and technology specialists to achieve project goals. In addition, collaborations with afterschool project sites provided strong partnerships to deliver the program to youth and build an urban 4-H presence in these communities.
Through this program, youths in grades 4-6 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 11 weekly 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.
Each lesson focuses on simple strategies youth can do to reduce their environmental risks, improve their health, and build upon previous lesson. Pre/post evaluations, and observations are conducted to measure gains in youth awareness and gauge impact. Pre/post evaluations are conducted in two modules: lessons 1-5 and lessons 6-11. The 4-H Common Measures in Technology are also assessed pre/post. Evaluation results show increased awareness of environmental risks such as mold, asthma, smoking, lead and food safety. Youth are able to demonstrate simple strategies to minimize these risks, such as proper hand washing, using food thermometers to cook meat to the correct temperature and avoiding asthma triggers. The impact of this is for youth to gain awareness of environmental risks and to utilize simple strategies to minimize risks in their home environment. Sharing this information with their families and the wider community helps the urban community as a whole. Newsletters on each topic covered are sent home weekly to share with their families or caregivers. The significance of this project is to develop educational material and delivery models to reach urban youth in this subject area that can be replicated in other urban communities. This program is part of an effort to bring 4-H to urban youth and communities as part of the existing Hartford County 4-H Programming.
This material is based upon the work of CYRFAR SCP Tools for Healthy Living, a project supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States (U.S.) Department of Agriculture, through a cooperative agreement with University of Connecticut under award number CONS-2012-00633.
Tools for Healthy Living is now a national 4-H curriculum, and a Healthy Homes Investigation Game was developed as an App. To purchase the curriculum go to http://bit.ly/2txWYWx. For more information on healthy homes for children and adults visit http://www.hec.uconn.edu.
What 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.