In April, we described the launch of an exciting new weatherization venture in Washington State that combines the energy efficiency improvements of weatherization with a targeted approach to reduce and remove asthma triggers in low-income households.
Six months later, the hard work of marrying weatherization to home health environment improvements is underway. The Washington State Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program is learning a great deal about the challenges, and the promise, of energy savings and health impacts in low-income homes. We’ve learned that:
- Public health entities can be strong and important partners in our work. Our allies include the Washington State Department of Health and the Washington State Asthma Coalition.
- Developing compelling and rigorous evidence of medical cost savings and improved patient well-being will be crucial over the long run. Continued support for Weatherization Plus Health depends partly on demonstrating potential for a good return on investment.
- Establishing the non-energy benefits, like health benefits of weatherization, is becoming increasingly important. This is especially true in the Pacific Northwest, where energy costs are low and the climate temperate.
Our eight pilot projects are diverse, and responsive to differing local needs, using local resources and partnerships:
- Two of eight operate in departments of city or county government; two are in housing authorities (including one tribal housing authority); four are in non-profit community action programs (CAP).
- Half are in rural areas; half are in primarily urban areas.
- The strategies we are testing are diverse, and include:
- Targeting households served by an existing health department asthma program in single-family homes.
- Helping tribal households with asthma through partnerships with Indian Health Service, or a tribal asthma home visit program.
- Targeting children with asthma in households served by a school health center.
- Collaborating with Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and Early Head Start.
- Targeting adults and children
Some of the big challenges we are encountering and working on include:
- The difficulty of serving multi-family and other rental households – establishing eligibility and securing landlord support.
- A relatively short pilot project timeline with long start-up planning requirements.
- Difficulties in ensuring we have enough strong programs to serve the whole state.
The pilot projects are getting enthusiastic support from our pilot agencies working on the front lines; our challenges are leading to innovations that will strengthen the program in the long run.
The real and significant health improvements we see in clients are keeping us focused on the incredible difference our work makes in their lives. Here, you can read the story of Mr. Shaw, one of our recent Weatherization Plus Health Clients. Already we are seeing elderly clients, who were out of breath and struggling when we first met them, become less dependent on medical interventions, stronger, and grateful. That makes all the extra effort worth it!
For more information, contact Hans Berg, Weatherization Leverage Manager, Washington State Department of Commerce, firstname.lastname@example.org, (360) 725-2961.