King County Healthy Homes, Seattle, WA
The King County Healthy Homes project was an intervention research project to help prevent asthma and encourage healthy indoor environments in Seattle.
The indoor home environment presents a range of health risks, including asthma triggers and exposures to toxics such as lead, pesticides, and volatile organics. Minority and low income populations are at increased risk for many of these exposures and children are most sensitive to their effects. Asthma is an important health consequence of these exposures, and its incidence and mortality appear to be steadily increasing, especially among low-income children.
The Seattle-King County Healthy Homes Project addressed these concerns. Paraprofessional Community Home Environmental Specialists (CHES) provided a comprehensive package of educational materials to reduce the total exposure burden of indoor environmental health risks. CHES conducted an initial home environmental assessment in low-income households with asthmatic children age 4-12. The home environmental specialists offered education and social support, encouraged behavior changes, provided materials to reduce exposures (bedding covers, vacuums, door mats, cleaning kits). This initial assessment was followed by five to nine visits over the next 12 months in which CHES worked with tenants, offering continued education and social support.
Community participation was an important component of this project. The project was developed by a partnership of community agencies, a tenant’s union, an environmental justice organization, the local health department, the CDC-sponsored Seattle Partners for Healthy Communities and the University of Washington. Primary funding was provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences with additional support from the Nesholm Foundation, the Seattle Foundation, and the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health. The project ran from 1997-2005 and found that the homes receiving the educational materials and supports had lower rates of development and severity of asthma in their children and higher awareness of how to prevent asthma.