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Improving Quality of Life for Asthma Patients Through Energy Efficiency

When we work with homeowners on energy efficiency improvements, we also have the opportunity to create a safer, healthier home environment. We’re working to identify and remove home-based health hazards like asthma triggers and lead exposure while establishing programs that create healthy homes that reduce energy costs.

asthmaWe’re currently working with AMITA Health and the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) on a home-based asthma intervention pilot in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. With technical assistance from the GHHI, Elevate Energy and AMITA Health are collaborating on a program offering asthma education and home-based asthma prevention measures, including minor construction such as mold remediation and health and safety repairs.

So far, we have helped 20 uninsured and Medicaid patients with severe asthma. We visited participants’ homes to better understand their unique situations and implement improvements. The visits included:

  • Asthma education;
  • A comprehensive healthy home assessment;
  • Free asthma-friendly products, such as HEPA vacuums and air filters, green cleaning supplies, and mattress and pillow covers;
  • Construction to address environmental hazards, such as replacing moldy drywall, carpet removal, and proper venting of combustion appliances; and
  • Referrals to additional resources, including energy efficiency programs.

As a result of the improvements implemented during the pilot, 100% of the 19 participants who responded to the pre- and post-survey improved their asthma control as measured by the Asthma Control Test (ACT), and 95% (18 participants) reached an ACT score of 19, which means their asthma is well-controlled. Additionally, among adult participants, 13 (72%) experienced reduced interference with work or school due to their asthma, and the same number of participants experienced reduced reliance on a rescue inhaler.

One participant really had an impact on our staff. When we met 18-year-old Robert (name changed to preserve patient privacy), he was grieving the loss of his mother, was unemployed, and his asthma severely restricted his daily activities. His home, which is a basement apartment in Humboldt Park, was contaminated by an extreme case of mold. In addition to the mold, the home had no ventilation and had several improperly vented combustion appliances in the living space.

During the home assessment we identified the source of the mold, found a good location for an exhaust-only ventilation system, and noted combustion appliances that needed proper venting to reduce carbon monoxide dangers in the home. We hired a contractor to address the full scope of work immediately. Through program referrals, Robert also will receive a new furnace, two new water heaters, and roof cavity insulation through the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program.

asthmaThrough proper medication use and home improvements, Robert’s asthma is now well-controlled. He shared his gratitude: “The asthma project helped me start going to the gym and developing a more social life. Now I can play basketball and I don’t get as tired as I used to. I feel much happier, like there is more to life than what I had been living.”

The original pilot (which ran from December 2017 to September 2018) has been expanded to incorporate additional funding from ComEd. We are beginning the second phase of this program in which we will serve an additional ten or more patients while enhancing the cross-sector coordination between these energy and health programs.

Learn more about our Healthy Homes work.

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