November 27, 2015
2 min read

Green public housing reduces asthma symptoms, morbidity

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Individuals who lived in green low-income public housing demonstrated improved health outcomes compared with those who lived in conventional public housing, according to study results.

Asthmatic children who lived in green homes also experienced considerably better asthma-related outcomes, results showed.

“Green design incorporates many aspects that could reduce environmental exposures and improve health, such as the removal of pollution sources and the addition of exhaust ventilation,”

Meryl D. Colton, MS, a researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University at the time of the study and now a medical student at University of Colorado, said in a press release. “Our study is unique in that it is the first green housing study large enough to examine changes in some important outcomes such as children's asthma attacks and hospital visits.”

The prevalence of morbidities and environmental pollutants is higher in low-income housing, according to study background.

Colton and colleagues compared health outcomes of adults who lived in green low-income public housing units compared with adults who lived in conventional low-income housing.

Researchers used questionnaires and a visual inspection to determine the health of residents, and to identify symptoms of sick building syndrome (SBS) and asthma-related morbidity.

The investigators sent surveys to more than 200 residents and performed more than 400 inspections between March 2012 and May 2013. Follow-up occurred approximately 1 year later.

Results showed residents who lived in green units had 1.35 (95% CI, 0.66-2.05) fewer SBS symptoms than those who lived in conventional units.

Asthmatic children who lived in green units demonstrated a reduced risk for asthma symptoms (OR = 0.34; 95% CI, 0.12-1), asthma attacks (OR = 0.31; 95% CI, 0.11-0.88), asthma-related school absences (OR = 0.21; 95% CI, 0.06-0.74) and hospital visits (OR = 0.24; 95% CI, 0.06-0.88) compared with those who lived in conventional low-income housing.

“Better buildings and better policies, such as better pest control practices and smoke-free policies, can effectively improve indoor environmental quality and improve health,” researcher Gary Adamkiewicz, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of environmental health and exposure disparities, said in a press release. “We're seeing the evidence that these approaches work in practice. We know that housing has a direct and meaningful effect on health. When you improve conditions, you can see the health benefits.” – by Jeff Craven

Disclosure: The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.