Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.
By SUSAN McMAHON
LOWELL - A nurse visiting a pregnant mom can hand out information on healthy cleaning materials.
A health inspector visiting a home can give parents tips on reducing the risk of asthma for their children.
A social worker making a visit can put parents in touch with a lead paint removal agency.
A new grant-funded project could make such scenarios more common in the coming years, as the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the city's Health Department are teaming up to promote a healthy homes initiative.
The project aims to increase awareness of healthy homes issues across the community, as well as strengthen the referral network between agencies.
Under the proposal, workers who already enter various homes for different purposes providing prenatal care, for example could also make parents aware of the issues in the home, such as mold, dust, lead paint, insects and smoking, and help them to resolve any problems.
For example, a representative of a health care group going into the home for prenatal care can make a parent aware of problems like asthma. The presence of cockroaches in a home or a family member who smokes both increase the risk of asthma for a child.
"What we're trying to do is make people more aware of these things and help to increase coordination between agencies," said David Turcotte of UMass Lowell's Center for Family, Work and Community.
The two-year, $165,000 grant came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. UMass Lowell is partnering with the city's Health Department and other agencies that do in-home visits to coordinate their efforts and better improve communication.
One of the goals of the project is to develop a better tracking system to keep watch over healthy homes issues in the city.
Coordinators also plan to develop a listing of resources currently available in the community to better improve cross-referral efforts among agencies.
The end result should be a better-organized system of catching health issues early, before they become problems, coordinators say.
"By increasing awareness, people may be able to detect things and notice issues," Turcotte said. "The key is getting information out to people."
Susan McMahon's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .