State and Local Spotlight:

AMITA Health Pilot

Organization: Elevate Energy
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Contact: Amanda Gramigna, Manager, Environmental Health,; 773-269-4015

As a nonprofit organization with the mission to support healthy, safe, and energy efficient housing, Elevate Energy recognizes that addressing housing and the social determinants of health is critical in lifting up communities. Elevate Energy has partnered with AMITA Health and the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative to design and operationalize a comprehensive asthma program model. This cross-sector collaboration is a partnership between Elevate Energy, AMITA Health and the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative. Elevate Energy is a mission-driven organization that designs and implements clean energy and energy efficiency programs for low-income households and other underserved markets. AMITA Health is one of the largest healthcare networks in Illinois; their network includes 19 acute and specialty care hospitals and more than 230 outpatient centers. With technical assistance from the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, Elevate Energy and AMITA Health are collaborating on a coordinated service delivery program offering asthma education and home-based asthma prevention measures, including minor construction such as mold remediation and health and safety repairs.

In the initial pilot, we helped 20 uninsured and Medicaid patients with severe asthma who had been hospitalized in the past 12 months through a coordinated service delivery model that combines home-based asthma prevention with energy efficiency and achieves a whole-home retrofit for households with significant health, safety, and energy needs. The program’s home visits include:

  • Asthma education;
  • A comprehensive healthy home assessment;
  • Free asthma-friendly products, such as HEPA vacuums and air filters, green cleaning supplies, and mattress and pillow covers;
  • Construction to address environmental hazards, such as replacing moldy drywall, removing carpets, and venting combustion appliances properly; and
  • Referrals to additional resources, including energy efficiency programs.

Our biggest hurdle was data sharing. We overcome this by using a program called Efforts to Outcomes which is HIPAA compliant and allowed us to all work on the project from our respective office. The most impactful element of the project was having funding to compete construction and in home asthma education.

The benefits of this approach are substantial: Of the 19 participants who responded to the pre- and post-survey, 100% improved their asthma control as measured by the Asthma Control Test (ACT), and 18 (95%) reached an ACT score of 19, which means their asthma is well controlled. The average ACT improvement was an increase of seven points, or a 56% improvement over the average baseline score. Additionally, among adult participants, 13 (72%) experienced reduced interference with work or school due to their asthma, and the same number of participants experienced reduced reliance on a rescue inhaler.

One client helped was Robert. When we met Robert, who was 18 years old, he was grieving the loss of his mother, was unemployed, lacked a social life, and his asthma severely restricted his daily activities. His home, a basement apartment in Humboldt Park, was contaminated by an extreme case of mold. In addition to the mold, the home had no ventilation and had several improperly vented combustion appliances in the living space (a furnace, two water heaters, and a stove). During Elevate Energy’s home assessment, we identified the source of the moisture, identified a good location for an exhaust-only ventilation system, and noted combustion appliances that needed proper venting to reduce carbon monoxide dangers in the home. Elevate Energy hired a contractor to address the full scope of work immediately. Through program referrals, Robert was slated to receive a new furnace, two new water heaters, and roof cavity insulation through the local utility’s energy efficiency program. With proper medication use and environmental improvements, Robert’s asthma is now well controlled. He shared his gratitude: “The asthma project helped me start going to the gym and developing a more social life. Now I could play basketball and I don’t get as tired as I used to…. I feel much happier—like there is more to life than what I had been living.”

The original pilot (December 2017-September 2018) has been expanded to incorporate additional funding from ComEd, the Chicago-area electric utility. We are currently beginning the second phase of this program.

For more information about AMITA Health, read this newsletter.