Boston Housing Authority

Departments > Planning and Real Estate Development > Healthy Homes

Healthy Homes Initiatives

Boston Housing Authority (BHA) strives to keep residents healthy through a variety policies and practices. In order to promote healthy lifestyle goals, BHA has long-term partnerships with several health non-profits, universities, community-based organizations and public agencies. 

For more information, please contact John Kane at (617) 988-4107 or TTY: (800) 545-1833 ext. 420.

There are several important health-related initiatives at BHA, including:

Asthma Intervention: Project LEAP 

The Lenox Environmental Assessment Project (LEAP) was a community-based intervention study using Community Health Workers (CHWs) to reduce disparities in asthma rates. CHWs implemented in-home asthma education to reduce exposure to indoor asthma triggers. CHWs conducted home environmental audits and offered residents advice and tools to reduce exposure to asthma triggers. This project took place at the Lenox, Camden and Alice Taylor developments in Roxbury in partnership with the Boston Medical Center.
 

Environmental Exposure Exploration and Mitigation Study 

The Environmental Exposure Exploration and Mitigation Study compared levels of pesticide exposure among children using traditional methods and newly implemented integrated pest management methods. This study measured pesticide levels to evaluate if impacts can be reduced with new methods. This was conducted at the Bromley-Heath Development in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health.
 

FreshAir 

FreshAir is an ongoing research study in partnership with the New England Research Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital to analyze the impact of exposure to tobacco smoke in non-smoking, English or Spanish speaking adults who lived in public housing before and after the implementation of the smoke-free housing policy. The smoke-free housing policy was implemented across all BHA communities in September 2012. This study is ongoing at Franklin Field, Mary Ellen McCormack, Alice Taylor, Orient Heights, Bromley-Heath, Charlestown, and Cathedral.
 

Green Public Housing Benefits: BRIGHT Study 

Boston Residential Investigation on Green and Healthy Transitions (BRIGHT) is an ongoing collaborative study in partnership with the Committee for Boston Public Housing and the Harvard School of Public Health. The study sites are Washington Beech, Old Colony and Cathedral – all public housing developments moving toward green living. Study teams administer a health survey, conduct environmental sampling, and visual inspections. One year later, the study teams return  to determine if there are  energy savings by going “green” and that resident health, comfort, and satisfaction are improved. Preliminary results are showing significant reductions particulate matter in the “green” homes compared to control homes as well as fewer reports of pests, mold, and inadequate ventilation.
 

Healthy Pest-Free Housing Initiative (2006 - 2010)

The Healthy Pest Free Housing Initiative (HPFHI), which grew out of the Healthy Public Housing Initiative (HPHI), reduced environmental health risks and asthma through safer pest management. Through education, outreach, and systems change, HPFHI reduced pest infestation, while changing individual and community pest control practices.

HPFHI was funded through grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The funding supported:

  • The employment of BHA residents in 15 public housing developments as Community Health Advocates to provide multi-lingual health education addressing asthma and tobacco use

  • BHA staff to ensure sustainability of a pest management program

  • Development and distribution of educational materials to reinforce the message

  • A pesticide buyback program

  • A campaign to alert local merchants to the dangers of illegal pesticide use

HPFHI was managed by the Boston Public Health Commission and involved 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.
 

Healthy Public Housing Initiative (2001 - 2005)

The Healthy Public Housing Initiative (HPHI) began in 2001 as a community-centered project designed to engage public housing residents in a collaborative process to improve their health and quality of life. Earlier studies conducted with Harvard, Tufts, and Boston University noted connections between indoor environmental conditions and resident health. The HPHI study found that BHA pest control practices in 2001 were leaving traces of multiple pesticides found in dust found in apartments. The Healthy Public Housing Initiative conducted interventions designed to reduce environmental health hazards – especially asthma triggers –  and measured the changes in health status of children with asthma after completion of the interventions.

The interventions were helpful in reducing environmental hazards and improving quality of life but faced different challenges to expand the intervention more broadly. The study recommended integrated pest management as the single intervention with the most potential to be implemented broadly and have the biggest impact with the most efficient use of resources.  
 

Integrated Pest Management Impact Study 

The ongoing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Impact Study is a partnership among BHA, Boston Public Health Commission and the Committee for Boston Public Housing that builds on the work of the Healthy Public Housing and Healthy Pest Free Housing Initiatives. Study partners are examining whether the intensity of IPM affects health outcomes at 17 BHA family and elderly disabled developments. The hypothesis of the proposed IPM Impact Study is that public housing which receives more intensive IPM activities will experience more substantial health benefits and more sustained improvements in indoor environment quality.  
 

Integrated Pest Management Specification 

Integrated Pest Management Specification (IPM) is a partnership among residents, BHA staff and the pest control company used by BHA. IPM aims to use the most effective methods of pest control, with efficient results and the least risk to residents. The IPM specification includes hiring a tenant coordinator and holding a community meeting with the pest control company to define roles and responsibilities. The program also calls for annual inspections of every unit, sealing all cracks and crevices, and actively treating and preventing active pest infestations. 
 

Smoke-Free Housing Policy

Implemented on September 30, 2012, the policy prohibits smoking in resident apartments. Violations are subject to the possibility of fines and eviction. Smoking is permitted on the premises but must be at least 15 feet away from the building. The policy is in the form of a Lease Addendum.

Please click here to learn more about Smoke-Free Housing at BHA.

Partners in Health and Housing: Boston University Prevention Research Center

The Partners in Health and Housing Prevention Research Center (PHH-PRC), funded since 2001 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a partnership among researchers, community members, and public agencies. The Center’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of Boston public housing residents, and reduce health disparities by engaging residents in community-centered research efforts and prevention activities.  

BHA partners with PHH-PRC on several important programs.

Resident Health Advocates

Participants in the Resident Health Advocate program train on many topics, including:

  • Health assessment models

  • Leadership skills

  • Cultural competence

  • Outreach education

  • Navigating the health care system

  • Asthma

  • First aid

  • Nutrition for life

  • Mental health, depression, stress

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Upon completion of the training program, two applicants are hired to complete a paid internship with BHA.  

For more information, contact Rachel Goodman at (617) 988-4021 or Greg Davis at (617) 988-5101 (TTY: (800) 545-1833 ext. 420).

Project HEART 

This core research project extended the Resident Health Advocate model, considering the effectiveness of RHAs who have received additional training to serve as Resident Health Navigators. These Resident Health Navigators provided guidance and support to help public housing residents find their way through the health care maze. Specifically, the research project assessed whether Resident Health Navigators improve residents’ access to care offered in local community health centers after an abnormal result on a screening test. 

Oral Health Project

Oral Health Advocates are Resident Health Advocates who have been specially trained to teach good oral health and to prevent dental problems in children. 

If you are a resident of a family development and interested in working with an Oral Health Advocate, please contact Michelle Henshaw at (617) 638-5222 or by email

Tobacco Cessation Program (Kick It for Good)

Tobacco Treatment Advocates are Resident Health Advocates who have received additional training to launch programs to help residents quit smoking. For more information, contact Dan Brooks at (617) 638-6725 or by email

Walking Program

The goal of the Walking Program is to prevent obesity and promote wellness through walking. The program is currently active at Cathedral, Lenox/Camden, Faneuil and Old Colony. 

Resident Health Advocates organize walking groups and recruit additional participants. The Boston Public Health Commission provides pedometers and walk logs to track progress.

Are you a resident of a BHA family housing development and interested in participating? Contact Amanda Johnson at (617) 414-1399 or by email.

With Every Heartbeat is Life (WEHL) Program at Old Colony

With Every Heartbeat is Life (WEHL) is a heart health curriculum developed by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health.  In partnership with HUD, the program aims to prevent heart disease in public housing communities by recruiting public housing residents to serve as Community Health Workers to lead health workshops in the community.  The WEHL program is currently implemented at Old Colony.The Community Health Workers serve as health advocates in the community.  Using the WEHL curriculum, the Community Health Workers facilitate a series of heart health workshops to their fellow neighbors, coordinate weekly health promotion activities and partner with local health organizations to provide health prevention education.
 
To learn more about the WEHL program at Old Colony, please contact Amy Tran at 617-988-4316 or by email.