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Join NCHH for National Public Health Week (April 2-8, 2018)

National Public Health Week 2018 BannerHealthiest Nation 2030: Changing Our Future Together

The National Center for Healthy Housing joins the American Public Health Association (APHA) in inviting you to engage all communities and all sectors in a conversation about the role each of us can play to put good health within everyone’s reach. Where we live, learn, work, worship, and play impacts our health and our opportunity to ward off disease and injury. With that in mind, let’s partner across public and private spheres to create healthier people, families, communities and, eventually, the healthiest nation. We can do it — if we work together.

Partners for Public Health

NCHH is a proud National Public Health Week Partner, and we invite your organization to become anNPHW partner too. It’s fast and very simple; just fill out this quick and easy form to add your organization to the growing list of NPHW partners. 
We all have a role to play. For inspiration and information on changing our nation’s health and ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to be healthy, check out the Healthiest Nation NPHW fact sheets.

NPHW Daily Themes

Each day of NPHW 2018 will focus on a different public health topic that’s critical to creating the healthiest nation. Every day is an opportunity to showcase your organization’s mission and projects, a partner’s accomplishments, a community’s events, and recognize and honor the contributions of America’s public health workers. 

Each year, NPHW provides new tools and tips to help you effectively shape and promote activities and key messages during the week. The NPHW 2018 postcard and toolkit gives you talking points around this year's theme, activity suggestions for each day of NPHW, tips for planning a successful NPHW event, strategies for garnering media coverage and using social media and ways to advocate for public health issues. At NCHH, we have found these resources help to engage communities to celebrate and promote public health and prevention.

Check out the NPHW Toolkit (pdf), which features sample social media posts, information about engaging your community and more!

Get Social about NPHW 

How to Make Social Media Work for You - Are you new to social media, or do you want to learn how to use the tools to advance your messages? Good news! APHA has a National Public Health Week Social Media 101 and 201. We invite you to connect with NCHH on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

Join the Twitter Chat! APHA will host its eighth annual NPHW Twitter Chat on Wednesday, April 4, at 2 p.m. EDT. The NPHW chat has grown bigger and better each year. Last year, APHA hosted nearly 900 people and organizations and brought the importance of public health to more than 68 million users! You can RSVP to participate in the 2018 chat here. You’ll see a list of other organizations and people that will be participating in the chat. This is a great way to make connections, grow your audiences, and share your organization’s story, events, and resources. 

Jo Miller, GPC, SMS, has worked as a part of the NCHH team since 2016, providing strategy, technical assistance, and training for communication and community engagement. A 20-year healthy housing and lead poisoning prevention veteran, she has worked with lead and healthy homes programs throughout the country to build stronger partnerships, innovative approaches, and secure grant funds. As a grant professional, Ms. Miller also specializes in nonprofit and community development as well as grant professional training. Ms. Miller is also a Social Media Strategist (SMS) and trainer, by the Grant Professional Certification Institute as Grant Professional Certified, and as an approved trainer by the Grant Professionals Association.

Safety's No Accident: A New Year's Resolution Has Us Buzzing about Alarms and Detectors – Part 2: Dual-Sensor Alarms

As I reported in an earlier blog, I planned to install sealed 10-year smoke alarms in our home to be in compliance with Maryland state law. I knew that I had replaced a battery-powered smoke in my home within the past 10 years. Further, also I knew that because it did not have a sealed 10-year battery, the alarm would now have to be upgraded. But as I assessed the situation, I learned two things: First, each floor of our home has been hard-wired to the electrical panel for smoke alarms. The battery-powered smoke alarm I had replaced appears to have been installed by the former owner when for some reason, they did not replace the hard-wired alarm on the second floor of our home. Second, because our home was built after 1975, I would need to replace the hard-wired alarm to be in full compliance with Maryland state law. But what alarm should I install?

Different Types of Smoke Detectors

Smoke alarms can come with two different types of smoke detectors.

  • Ionization detectors create a flow of ions within the device. When the ions are disrupted by smoke, the alarm sounds. Research has found that ionization sensors are best at responding to fast-burning, “flaming” fires.
  • Photoelectric detectors have a light source within the device. When the light is reflected by smoke particles entering the chamber, the light sensor triggers the alarm. Research has found that photoelectric sensors are best at responding to slow-burning, “smoldering” fires.

As recently as 2012, about 90% of U.S. homes had a smoke alarm with an ionization sensor, about 5% had a photoelectric sensor, and the remainder of homes had no smoke alarm at all. Having no alarm certainly poses the highest risk, but people are now realizing that having the “wrong” type of sensor in the home can also have tragic results. Today, many groups including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), insurers, and the publishers of Consumer Reports recommend installing both types of alarms in our homes. Manufacturers are now selling devices that have both sensors, so the most efficient way to put both sensors in a home is to install these “dual-sensor” models.

Are We Safer with Dual-Sensor Alarms?

Some observers have questioned whether the dual-sensor models will alarm as quickly as models with the individual sensors. However, a 2009 study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and reviewed by NFPA found that “the assumption that sensors in dual alarms are always less sensitive than those found in individual photoelectric or ionization alarms is false. Typically, dual alarms respond before ionization alarms in smoldering fires and before photoelectric alarms in flaming fires.”

Knowing that a dual sensor would effectively protect my family’s safety, I started thinking more about the idea of having just one alarm per story in our home.1 I had seen smoke alarms sold in combination with carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Could a single alarm on the second floor address the risks of both fires and carbon monoxide poisoning? Unfortunately, the marketplace is not there just yet. Consumer Reports says it well: “Our challenge to manufacturers: Produce a single device that senses both kinds of fire and CO. Until then, combining various types of alarms offers the best protection.”

Next Steps in the Resolution for Home Safety

With this information in hand, I went ahead with purchasing and installing a dual-sensor hard-wired smoke alarm. I also decided to seize the moment and practice what my organization preaches: Every home should have a CO detector installed. In a separate blog, I’ll discuss my search for the optimal CO detector for our home.

1 We have a relatively small home with all bedrooms next to our second floor smoke alarm. Fire officials recommend placing extra smoke alarms within bedrooms if there is a risk that a hallway-based alarm might not be heard in those rooms.  

Jonathan Wilson, MPP, joined NCHH in 1993 and currently serves as Deputy Director and Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Wilson has authored more than 25 peer-reviewed research manuscripts evaluating assessment tools and interventions for healthy housing hazards. He also served as the NCHH representative to the federal Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention from 2004 to 2010. He came to NCHH with a background in nonprofit housing development and a Master of Public Policy degree.

Introducing NCHH's Healthy Housing Fact Sheets: EPA Region 2

This is the second installment in a 10-part blog series. Read about EPA Region 1 here.

One of the struggles for those of us on the policy team here at the National Center for Healthy Housing is creating resources that are useful for individuals and organizations working at the state and local levels while still reflecting the wider healthy homes movement. Belief in the power of individual and community stories and needs forms a core pillar of our advocacy work. At the same time, one of the strongest truths we speak to is that no problem is isolated. Yes, paying attention to state and local perspectives and challenges informs us about the unique situation in each place. But it also illuminates how universal many of these problems really are.

In an effort to demonstrate this dual message, NCHH created 53 state healthy housing profiles, covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. as a whole. On each sheet, you‘ll find eight statistics about the healthy housing situation in your state and learn which of 11 programs at CDCHUD, and EPA have given money to your state in the past three years. Covered topics include asthma prevalence and financial burden, childhood lead poisoning numbers and age of housing, radon levels, carbon monoxide fatalities, and unintentional falls among older adults. Most information was found from federal or state governments, and each fact is hyperlinked back to the source material.

EPA Region 2

Throughout 2018, we’re posting highlights of our state fact sheets by EPA region, one region per month. In February, we’re on EPA Region 2, which includes New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico.

  • One of the ways the state fact sheets track the impact of asthma, beyond just prevalence, is the number of emergency department visits with asthma as a primary cause. In 2014, that number was over 168,000 in New York; in Puerto Rico in 2010, 40% of the population with asthma had visited an emergency department for the condition.
  • Between New York and New Jersey, 17,523 children tested with blood lead levels at or above 5 µg/dL in 2015. In New Jersey, 13% of children with a positive blood lead test lived in Newark, despite only 3.8% of the state’s children under age six living in the city.
  • Puerto Rico does not require blood lead data reporting, but over 3% of children under six are estimated to have elevated blood lead levels. As of 2015, 97.2% of the population was served by water systems in violation of the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule.
  • Both New York and New Jersey have high amounts of radon: In New York, over half of counties have predicted indoor levels above the EPA action level, while in New Jersey, radon is associated with between 140 and 250 lung cancer deaths a year. This problem is much less pronounced in Puerto Rico, but the northwestern and southeastern portions of the island are still considered to have moderate indoor radon risks.
  • An average of 39 people die annually from carbon monoxide exposure in New York. In New Jersey, carbon monoxide was responsible for 454 emergency department visits in 2015.
  • Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the healthy housing needs in Puerto Rico without discussing the overwhelming impact of Hurricane Maria on the island’s housing and infrastructure. More than a third of homes were destroyed or damaged in the disaster; according to Puerto Rico’s government, the cost totals $37 million. NCHH has joined the National Low-Income Housing Coalition and others in calling for increased disaster relief funds for Puerto Rico, including standing up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program.

Other NCHH Resources

NCHH’s state fact sheets will be updated annually with current information. For questions or comments, please email Laura Fudala at


Sarah Goodwin joined NCHH as a Policy Analyst in June 2017. She previously served NCHH as a policy intern, helping to establish and run the Find It, Fix It, Fund It lead action drive and its work groups. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government from American University.

How the President’s Budget Impacts Healthy Housing

The National Center for Healthy Housing is saddened to see the priorities being presented by the president’s FY19 Federal Budget Request. We know that Congress can do better.

We believe most Americans care about health and that our budget should reflect that, but some of the core federal agency programs that work to keep us all healthier will be underfunded or canceled under the president’s latest proposal. Below are just the programs that NCHH tracks and reports on to advocates and policy makers regularly; many more are also on the chopping block in the president’s budget.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes: The president’s budget is $145 million; our request is $230 million. The $145 million is the same as the 2017 request and lower than the Senate’s FY18 number of $160 million. As our understanding of the impact of exposure and the cost-effectiveness of investing in eliminating lead hazards grows, certainly the funding that works to thwart lead exposure and hazards should be keeping pace.
    • Within this program, the president’s budget removes $5 million from the healthy homes account—from $30 million to $25 million—and redistributes those funds to the lead account. 
  • CDBG and HOME: The president’s budget zeroes out these programs, which provide vital services to low-income and underserved populations across the country. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program alone feeds into myriad programs across the states that effect the health and well-being of Americans of all ages.
Learn more about HUD’s valuable programs and services with NCHH’s new Healthy Homes Agency Fact Sheet

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • Eliminates Indoor Air and Radon Programs. We request level funding for these programs. 
    • Indoor Air: Radon, previously funded at $2.91 million.
    • Reduce Risk from Indoor Air, previously funded at $13.733 million.
  • Eliminates Lead and Radon Categorical Grants. We request level funding for these programs. 
    • Radon Categorical Grant: previously funded at $8.051 million.
    • Lead Categorical Grant: previously funded at $14.049 million. 
  • Eliminates the Lead Risk Reduction Program, which was previously funded at $13.275 million; we request level funding for this program
    • Lead paint certifications will continue, through the Chemical Risk Review and Reduction Program, but this program is also getting a minor cut. 
    • The budget states that “Other forms of lead exposure are addressed through other targeted programs, such as the State Revolving Funds, to replace lead pipes.” 1 
  • Decreases the Children and Other Sensitive Populations program, under Information Exchange/Outreach, from $6.548 million to $2.081 million. We request level funding for this program.

Learn more about EPA’s valuable programs and services with NCHH’s new Healthy Homes Agency Fact Sheet.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Environmental Health 

Learn more about CDC’s valuable programs and services with NCHH’s new Healthy Homes Agency Fact Sheet. NCHH has also created a fact sheet for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is CDC’s parent agency.

Other Impacted Line Items

A Note on the Impact of the President’s Budget on State Funding

A note about how these changes would directly impact state budgets: NCHH tracks 11 grant/funding programs on our state healthy housing fact sheets. Between the eliminations and cuts at HHS, CDC, HUD, EPA, and DOE, this budget cuts or eliminates at least seven of them (eight if you count the expiring CDC lead money as a cut). 

The president and his administration have identified their priorities in this new budget. We'll do all we can to convince Congress of the necessity and cost-effective return on investment of these reduced or eliminated programs and implore Congress to restore programs to present funding levels or increase funding, as well as continue to work to educate the administration about what these programs do to have impact on the long-term health of the entire country. If you'd like to join us in that effort, please join our distribution list

1 One wonders how eliminating this program and the state grants supports Administrator Pruitt’s statement to other federal agencies that “All areas of lead exposure – from lead pipes to contaminated soil – need to be pursued and addressed in a comprehensive and consistent approach” (from the invitation to the principal’s meeting).


CDC FY19 Budget Documents 
EPA FY19 Budget Documents 
All of our FY18 request numbers and justifications live here

Darcy Scott,
NCHH Senior Policy Adviser, has been engaged in federal advocacy efforts for over 15 years. She has worked with a number of large-scale organizations, such as the ACLU and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, to influence legislators through public engagement. Ms. Scott ran the government affairs department at M+R Strategic Services, leveraging the power of organizations and coalitions to influence the legislative process, and her consulting clients include Habitat for Humanity International and United Way Worldwide. Ms. Scott holds an undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University and a graduate degree from Northwestern University. 

Sarah Goodwin joined NCHH as a Policy Analyst in June 2017. She previously served NCHH as a policy intern, helping to establish and run the Find It, Fix It, Fund It lead action drive and its work groups. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government from American University.

Safety's No Accident: A New Year's Resolution Has Us Buzzing about Alarms and Detectors

This past weekend, I began a home project that would improve the safety of our home, make our home compliant with Maryland state law, and achieve a New Year’s resolution. The project was going to involve 10-year sealed battery smoke alarms. As I’ll explain in a series of future blogs, the home project ended up having a couple of twists and turns, as often happens with DIY work. But rest assured, in less than half a day, my home is now safer and in compliance with the law. Resolution met, with three blog stories to write instead of one. The following is the blog story I expected to write.

Smoke Alarms Save Lives

The evidence is clear. Yet, what is also clear is that even though our fire departments remind us twice a year to check our smoke alarm batteries when we change our clocks, this does not always happen.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work on an important study. The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) partnered with the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control to assess the effectiveness of a program to distribute and install battery-powered smoke alarms nationwide. In a report released in 2008, we found that, 8-10 years after installation, only about one-third of the smoke alarms were still operational. Thirty percent (30%) of the smoke alarms were present, but the battery was missing or dead.

Smoke Alarm Recommendations

To address this significant problem, we recommended in the Journal of Community Health (October 2010) that:

  • Future distribution programs install lithium battery-powered alarms with sealed-in batteries that last 10 years. 
  • Alarms come with “hush” buttons that allow residents to silence a nuisance (e.g., burned toast) alarm without removing the batteries or the whole alarm. 
  • Ten-year smoke alarms “chirp” after the battery loses power and offer the added benefit of reminding owners to replace ineffective units at their properties. 
Smoke detection sensors also lose effectiveness after about a decade; fire safety advocacy groups like the National Fire Protection Association have been educating people to replace their smoke alarms every 10 years

New Smoke Detector Laws

Eight states and at least six localities now require homes with battery-powered smoke alarms to install the 10-year sealed-battery units. The states include California, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin (multifamily only), as well as my home state of Maryland. New York City is one of the localities that currently has a similar ordinance, while New York State is working on regulations that will go into effect in 2019. On January 1, 2018, the Maryland law went into full effect, so smoke alarms with replaceable batteries should now be replaced with 10-year sealed devices.

As with many laws, the devil is in the details. For example, Oregon’s law applies to only one type of smoke detection sensor (ionization), while multiple states exempt battery-powered smoke alarms from the 10-year sealed battery requirement if the alarm connects with other alarms in the home wirelessly (e.g., a Nest). Those planning on buying a battery-powered smoke alarm should look into the requirements in their area

I ended up installing a hardwired smoke alarm in my home (more on that later). Even though I didn’t purchase a battery-powered smoke alarm, I’m so glad the CDC/NCHH research on these alarms is being translated into policy that is making the public safer. Other states and municipalities should consider taking up this important legislation.

Jonathan Wilson, MPP, joined NCHH in 1993 and currently serves as Deputy Director and Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Wilson has authored more than 25 peer-reviewed research manuscripts evaluating assessment tools and interventions for healthy housing hazards. He also served as the NCHH representative to the federal Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention from 2004 to 2010. He came to NCHH with a background in nonprofit housing development and a Master of Public Policy degree.

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