The Healthy Pest Free Housing Initiative (HPFHI) is an innovative community demonstration project designed to reduce environmental health risks and asthma among residents of Boston public housing through education, outreach and systems change. HPFHI built on a research project, the Healthy Public Housing Initiative (HPHI), that documented both high levels of cockroach allergen and high numbers of children with allergic sensitivity to the most prevalent cockroach antigen. Every home tested in HPHI showed evidence of pesticides that are either banned or restricted to non-residential use in the United States. HPHI also documented that integrated pest management (IPM) was more effective and safer than traditional pest control that relied heavily on pesticides. IPM requires residents and management to work together to create a home environment that is unwelcoming to pests – such as sealing food, eliminating clutter, stopping leaks, and sealing cracks.
Funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supported resident education, public awareness and systems change at the Boston Housing Authority (BHA). BHA residents were employed as community health advocates who demonstrated safe and effective pest control techniques to their public housing neighbors. A public information campaign was developed including a comprehensive brochure for residents. “What You Need to Know About Pests and Pesticides to Protect Your Family's Health” is avaliable in multiple languages. Posters reinforce these messages. Pesticide Buybacks were held at multiple sites to offer residents education and supplies in return for their pesticides, and a Bodega Campaign sent health advocates out to educate small shop owners about the dangers of selling illegal and restricted pesticides. The program is sustained through the development of new pest control procedures and policies and training of staff and residents in safe pest control practices. Policy initiatives and development of tools involve state and regional advocacy partners, and enhance program dissemination. Finally, program evaluation has demonstrated the success of the IPM program reducing pest infestation and pesticide use and in improving self reported health and quality of life.
The Healthy Pest Free Housing Initiative is managed by the Boston Public Health Commission and involves a diverse coalition of partners including the Boston Housing Authority, Committee for Boston Public Housing, West Broadway Task Force, Asthma Regional Council of New England,, Boston Urban Asthma Coalition, Massachusetts Public Health Association and the Boston University School of Public Health.
For more information on the Healthy Pest Free Housing Initiative, call the Boston Public Health Commission at (617) 534-5966.