Medical and energy leaders launch joint study on link between energy efficiency and health

St. Johnsbury, VT

A Vermont study is being launched to identify the impact of energy-efficient homes on occupant health. The effort is the brainchild of a broad coalition of experts from Vermont’s healthcare, energy efficiency, state government, and low-income service sectors.

The Healthy Homes Vermont study will engage 10 low-income households where occupants are managing chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema. Each home will undergo improvements aimed at cutting energy costs and providing healthy indoor temperatures and air quality. The study will then track each home’s energy use and air quality and conduct post-upgrade occupant health assessments.

Partners in the study include the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity’s Weatherization Program, Northeast Employment and Training Organization, and Efficiency Vermont.

“As health care providers, it’s our mission and passion to help our patients lead healthier, happier lives,” said Laural Ruggles, Vice President of Marketing and Community Health Improvement, NVRH. “We’re accustomed to prescribing medical treatment and preventative healthy lifestyle approaches, but if there is a confirmed health-efficiency link, we may well be prescribing energy efficiency in the future.” 

The study was inspired by an earlier home improvement collaboration between Rutland Regional Medical Center, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, and BROC Community Action, which focused on asthma patients. Building on that idea, Efficiency Vermont gathered a broader group of partners with an aim to deepen benefits for households and measure the impact of home improvements on health. The member organizations of the Healthy Homes Vermont coalition each address a different need based on their areas of expertise, including identifying optimal efficiency upgrades, improving homes, addressing occupant health, collecting and analyzing data, and providing funding.

“As diverse a group as we are, we share a common interest in the well-being of Vermonters,” said Karen Glitman, Director of Efficiency Vermont, one of the organizations leading the study. “There’s a growing body of work showing that housing quality and health are related. We’re setting out to verify it in Vermont conditions, so that we all can do more for the people we serve going forward. Problems aren’t caused in isolation, so solutions have to involve reaching out across disciplines.”

“We are always looking for new ways to help our clients improve their health and reduce their energy use,” said Jim Ryan, Executive Director of the Northeast Employment and Training Organization.  “The energy they save will keep money in their pockets for necessities for their families and the upgrades made to their homes will contribute to improved health and comfort.”

 

Participants needed

The study team is actively recruiting qualified St. Johnsbury-area residents to participate. Participants will receive, at no cost, home improvements aimed at cutting energy costs and providing healthy indoor temperatures and air quality, with an average value of more than $10,000.

Households chosen for the study must:

  • Be owned by the occupant(s) or a housing cooperative
  • Have a household member with an active diagnosis of asthma or a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, with related symptoms in the last 12 months requiring an urgent care visit, two or more office visits or two or more related prescription refills
  • Be non-smoking
  • Be eligible for income-based assistance as defined by the Vermont Weatherization Assistance Program
  • Be located within the NVRH service area.

Caledonia and Southern Essex Vermont county residents interested in participating in the study can find out more, including eligibility criteria, at (802)-748-8141.

About Efficiency Vermont

Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and is regulated by the Vermont Public Utility Commission to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy, and protect Vermont's environment. For more information, contact Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990 or visit www.efficiencyvermont.com

About Vermont’s Weatherization Program
Administered by the Office of Economic Opportunity in the Vermont Department for Children and Families, the program helps low-income homeowners and renters to reduce their energy usage, lower their utility bills and improve the overall comfort, health and safety of their homes. Priority is given to people receiving Fuel Assistance, those living in high energy use homes, families with young children, older Vermonters and people with disabilities. http://dcf.vermont.gov/benefits/weatherization

Efficiency Vermont
Jeff Buell
Phone: (802) 540-7662
jbuell@veic.org