Salt Lake County joins national initiative to make homes safe, healthy

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 28 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

Garbett Home marketing director Rene Oehlerking talks about high energy efficiency in a model home in Salt Lake County Tuesday, May 10, 2011. Salt Lake County is taking part in a national program designed to boost health and safety at home.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County is taking part in a national program designed to boost health and safety at home.

Mayor Peter Corroon on Wednesday signed the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Compact — an integrated system developed to deliver healthy housing programs for vulnerable families and children in the Salt Lake area.

Established in Baltimore in 2008 and officially launched the following year in 10 cities around the country, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Compact reallocates existing assets cities and counties have to improve the collective management of those financial resources, said Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the initiative.

Plans are in place to have the program in 65 cities nationwide by the end of 2015, Norton said.

"The GHHI platform is helping local communities across the country deliver integrated and collaborative health and housing services to low-income families that more efficiently and cost-effectively implements federally funded programs," she said. "With GHHI, children are healthier, families have safer and more energy efficient homes — and lower utility bills — and health insurance costs decline due to fewer housing-related health issues."

Initiative spokeswoman Beth Bingham said the program's approach achieves multiple benefits, including healthier and more energy-efficient homes, higher quality green jobs, increased economic opportunities for low-income communities, and better health outcomes for children and families.

Those benefits are attained by leveraging the nation's investment in weatherization, energy efficiency, lead hazard reduction and healthy homes interventions, Bingham said.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday at the Salt Lake County Government Center, Norton explained that the initiative includes an in-home assessment and energy audit. Based on this assessment, an intervention plan is created for the home, she said.

The interventions cover a broad range of issues, Norton said, including mold remediation, weather-stripping, caulking to seal holes and air leakage, improving insulation, replacing air filters, lead hazard prevention, radon testing and mediation, and installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Such interventions will help lower utility bills, as well as improve health and reduce health care costs associated with asthma, lead poisoning and other home-based health and safety hazards, she said.

Families with young children in particular can benefit from the initiative because children are especially vulnerable to health and safety hazards found in the home, Norton said. Families participating in the initiative will learn how to create a safe and healthy home environment, she said.

For households with a child or adult with asthma, the family will learn specific ways to reduce asthma triggers in the home, Norton said. About 240,000 Utahns — 9 percent of adults and 7 percent of children — have asthma. 

Environmental triggers play an important part in asthma management, explained Intermountain Healthcare pediatrician Michelle Hoffman. And medical treatment alone is not sufficient to address the most severe cases of asthma, she added.

"The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative will help families recognize the importance of environment in asthma management and how to reduce asthma triggers in their home," Hoffman said. "This can prevent asthma symptoms and help reduce health care costs associated with asthma episodes."

The signing of the compact marks the beginning stages to develop the program in Salt Lake County, the 16th site to implement the program.

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