Housing conditions can significantly affect public health. Childhood lead poisoning, injuries, respiratory diseases such as asthma, and quality of life issues have been linked to the more than 6 million substandard housing units nationwide. Residents of these units are also at increased risk for fire, electrical injuries, falls, rodent bites, and other illnesses and injuries. Other issues of concern include exposure to pesticide residues, indoor toxicants, tobacco smoke, and combustion gases. The burning of oil, gas, and kerosene can release a variety of combustion products, including carbon monoxide, a known cause of illness and death.
In its Healthy People 2020 goals, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls for a
- 10% decrease in homes with lead paint hazards.
- 20% reduction in homes with moderate or severe physical problems.
- 10% improvement in reducing cockroach and mouse allergens in homes.
- 30% increase of homes with radon mitigation systems.
Most public health efforts take a categoric approach to health and safety hazards in the home, focusing narrowly on one issue, even in the presence of multiple issues. A Healthy Homes approach is holistic and comprehensive and provides public health professionals, including environmental public health practitioners, public health nurses, and housing specialists, the requisite training and tools necessary to address the broad range of housing deficiencies and hazards associated with unhealthy and unsafe homes.
CDC’s Healthy Homes Activities
- CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention program protects children from health effects of home based environmental exposures like lead, mold, and cockroach dander.
- Conducting Research: CDC is partnering with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Green Housing Study. The study will leverage this opportunity to collect survey and biomarker data from residents and to collect environmental measurements in their homes in order to evaluate associations between green housing and health.
- Improving Surveillance: The Healthy Housing and Lead Poisoning Surveillance System (HHLPSS) is a web-based system that will track home-based risk factors and will establish a Healthy Housing Surveillance system at the state and national level.
- Disseminating Guidelines and Recommendations: CDC was involved in the development of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes. The Call to Action describes steps people can take to protect themselves from disease, disability, and injury that may result from health hazards in their houses. CDC works with federal partners including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to collaborate on evidence-based healthy homes policies. This includes integration of healthy homes policies into existing maternal and child health programs and supporting objectives in the interagency plan, Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action [PDF – 1.18 MB].
CDC is a member of the federal interagency Healthy Homes Work Group, which created a federal strategy for action on healthy housing. The five goals in the strategy support the work group’s vision to substantially reduce the number of American homes with residential health and safety hazards:
- Establishing healthy homes recommendations.
- Encouraging adoption of healthy homes recommendations.
- Creating and supporting training and workforce development to address health hazards in housing.
- Educating the public about healthy homes.
- Supporting research that informs and advances healthy housing in a cost-effective manner.