Examining Health and Housing Partnerships in the Promise Zone

By: John McLaughlin

The West Philadelphia Promise Zone contains both large hospitals and an aging housing stock that is deteriorating in condition. Many households struggle to make ends meet and are unable to make repairs on their own that will make their homes healthier. Many homes have mold, mildew, lead paint, and pests, which lead to one in four children in West Philadelphia having asthma. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), to address the high rates of childhood asthma, started the Community Asthma Prevention Program (CAPP) in 1997. CAPP, through grant funding and Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MMCO) partnerships, offers free in-home asthma education and provides supplies to mitigate environmental triggers for Philadelphia’s neediest families. In mid-December, an expansion of the program titled CAPP+ was announced where CHOP is partnering with the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC) to remediate West Philadelphia homes by professionally repairing areas of the home that cause asthma symptoms. A recent pilot study found that asthma remediation projects that cost, on average, $3,500 lowered children’s hospitalizations by seventy percent and school absences by fifty percent (Feyler, Nan, “The Impact of Housing Quality on Children’s Health.” Philadelphia Department of Public Health, 2015.)

In addition to the CAPP+ program, CHOP has joined Rebuilding Together Philadelphia (RTP), Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Philadelphia, LISC, People’s Emergency Center (PEC), and Mount Vernon Manor (MVM) to build upon their already-existing Housing Preservation Initiative (HPI). Together, they partnered under an expanded umbrella called the Home Preservation Initiative for Healthy Living to apply for and receive funding through the BUILD Health Challenge, a grant awarded to multi-sector partnerships that seek to reduce health disparities caused by social inequities. During the years before CHOP’s inclusion, HPI had been identifying homes in the Promise Zone with adverse health triggers and remediating them along with completing other critical repair work. People’s Emergency Center (PEC)’s Community Connectors and the MVM Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) Coordinator do outreach and engage residents in the HPI program. Under BUILD, families in CHOP’s CAPP program are referred to the group for repairs that focus on reducing asthma triggers. CAPP also sends their Community Health Workers to simultaneously provide in-home asthma reduction education. The ultimate goal of both CAPP+ and the Home Preservation Initiative for Healthy Living is to drastically reduce the incidence of and Emergency Room Utilization due to asthma. The collaborative is hoping that health and repair providers can eventually seek reimbursement by managed care organizations (like Medicaid or other insurers) for home visits and repairs.

The Home Preservation for Healthy Living is always looking for eligible residents. Participants must be referred through CHOP’s CAPP program (participants have children with severe asthma). Households must own the home where they reside and make no more than eighty percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). Children who are admitted to the hospital once in the past year (or in the Emergency Department twice in the past year) for asthma and are prescribed an asthma controller medicine are eligible for CAPP. CAPP will then determine if the family is eligible for the Home Preservation Initiative for Healthy Living and if so, connect them to the program.

Earlier in December, housing and health professionals across the country gathered at Thomas Jefferson University for a Health and Housing Summit organized by the Pennsylvania Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC). The keynote speakers were Dr. Kelly Kelleher, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Sister Mary Scullion, a Philadelphia icon that co-founded Project HOME, a national model for reaching and serving the homeless. Ninety-five percent of people experiencing homelessness that fully participate in Project HOME’s programs never return to the streets. In 2008, Nationwide Children’s Hospital began collaborating with Community Development for All People, a local CDC, and several other community partners to develop the Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families (HNHF) initiative, which seeks to treat local neighborhoods as patients. HNHF is now becoming a shining example of what large-scale, sustained investment by a hospital in its surrounding communities could look like. You can learn more about HNHF here and read Nationwide’s “Community Update” on the project here. Key representatives of HPI and CAPP+ spoke about their programs at the summit, many of whom are members of or have spoken at Promise Zone committees. Considering the multi-sector nature of our work in the Promise Zone, we look forward to further developing partnerships between health institutions and local housing organizations in the future!

If you’re interested in receiving home repairs but are ineligible for the CAPP or CAPP+ programs, two HPI partners, Rebuilding Together Philadelphia and Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia are doing repairs in the Promise Zone. Homeowners interested in receiving repairs from Rebuilding Together Philadelphia can collect signatures from 10-15 homeowners on their block and submit a block application together. Rebuilding Together Philadelphia does not accept applications from individual homeowners. The block application can be found on the Rebuilding Together Philadelphia’s website (www.rebuildingphilly.org) and phone inquiries should be directed to 215-965-0777. If you want to apply individually for repairs you can go to Habitat for Humanity’s website (www.habitatphiladelphia.org) or call Habitat directly at 215-765-6000 x 18 and leave your contact information.

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