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Healthy Homes Initiative

    Composite of People in the home environmentHousing 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 2010 goals, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls for a 52% reduction in the number of substandard occupied housing units throughout the United States.

    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.

    What Is CDC’s Healthy Homes Initiative?

    CDC’s Healthy Homes Initiative is a coordinated, comprehensive, and holistic approach to preventing diseases and injuries that result from housing-related hazards and deficiencies. The focus of the initiative is to identify health, safety, and quality-of-life issues in the home environment and to act systematically to eliminate or mitigate problems.

    The Healthy Homes Initiative seeks to

    • Broaden the scope of single-issue public health programs, such as childhood lead poisoning prevention and asthma programs, to address multiple housing deficiencies that affect health and safety.

    • Build capacity and competency among environmental public health practitioners, public health nurses, housing specialists, managers, and others who work in the community, to develop and manage comprehensive and effective healthy homes programs.

    • Promote, develop, and implement cross-disciplinary activities at the federal, state, tribal, and community levels to address the problem of unhealthy and unsafe housing through surveillance, research, and comprehensive prevention programs.

    • Facilitate the collection of local data and monitor progress toward reducing or eliminating housing deficiencies and hazards.

    • Expand collaborations with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, national associations and organizations, academia, community-based organizations, and others, including the American Public Health Association, National Environmental Health Association, and the World Health Organization.

    • Promote research to determine causal relations between substandard housing and adverse health effects.

    • Develop guidelines to assess, reduce, and eliminate health and safety risks.

    • Identify and implement low-cost, reliable, and practical methods to reduce health and safety risks in substandard housing.

    CDC Products Related to the Healthy Homes Initiative

    • Reference Manual CoverHealthy Housing Reference Manual
      Housing conditions have an important impact on public health. The Healthy Housing Reference Manual provides a comprehensive guide to the relation among housing construction, housing systems, and health. In the 30 years since the first edition (Basic Housing Inspection) was published, we have begun to learn more about how specific housing conditions are related to disease and injury. This new edition, written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), gives public health and housing professionals the tools necessary to ensure that housing stock is safe, decent, affordable, and healthy for our citizens, particularly children and the elderly, who are often most vulnerable and spend more time in the home.
    • Integrated Pest Management CoverIntegrated Pest Management: Conducting Urban Rodent Surveys [PDF, 626KB] Updates the 1974 CDC Urban Rat Surveys manual to include information about integrated pest management (IPM). The updated manual provides public health and housing professionals with comprehensive information for implementing IPM as a systems approach in the management of pests and vectors.
    • Inspection Manual CoverThe Healthy Housing Inspection Manual is a model reference tool that takes environmental health, public health, housing, and other professionals through the elements of a holistic home inspection. The manual presents recommendations for a complete assessment that can be modified based on local policies and needs. . This new manual contains a visual assessment and definitions for housing deficiencies; a voluntary health assessment; and links to additional information about environmental sampling methods, hazards, and issues related to healthy housing.

      The Healthy Housing Inspection Manual is an adjunct to, and complements, the revised CDC/HUD Healthy Housing Reference Manual described above.

    • Training Manual CoverThe National Healthy Homes Training Center and Network (HHTC) has been established. HHTC addresses the training needs of environmental public health practitioners, public health nurses, housing specialists, and others through formal on-site training programs and Internet-based instruction and operates through the National Center for Healthy Housing.


    Next Steps

    HHTC will adapt the training for distance learning, offer on-site classes in four additional locations, and begin the development and operation of a National Healthy Homes Clearinghouse. The center and network will also expand its operation to include six additional regional academic centers.

    For more information about CDC’s Healthy Homes Initiative, please contact M. Deborah Millette, Division of Emergency and Environmental Health Services, at (770)-488-4024 or