Healthy Homes Conference


Thank you, Jon (Gant). Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It’s an honor and pleasure to join my federal colleagues at this conference (Dr. Julie Gerberding of CDC, Mr. Stephen Johnson of EPA, and Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Robert Williams). I thank each of them, and each of you, for your steadfast efforts to help American families live healthier lives. I am so pleased to see such strong bipartisan support for the elimination of housing-related health hazards. There is an old Italian proverb: “Mal commune, mezzo gaudio.” It means that “trouble shared is troubled that is cut in half.” And we certainly are more effective in eliminating home health hazards when we work together.

We meet in an appropriate city for such discussions. The city government of Baltimore and its partners have reduced childhood lead poisoning by 95 percent over the last 10 years. That is good news…wonderful news. And I am pleased that Baltimore is pursuing a sustainable communities agenda by adopting Healthy Homes Standards. Congratulations to all involved in Baltimore’s success. We will continue to learn from your efforts here and from similar efforts in other cities.

A city is the sum of its inhabitants and its history. Each city has its own culture and personality. And each city has its expectations. I believe people in a city should expect that the city is livable, inspiring, and safe, bringing out the best in all of us. And a city must be healthy, a place where our children can play and grow in good health.

As the former Mayor of Syracuse, I know we must ensure our communities provide safe and healthy housing for our families. We must expect – demand – that housing to be healthy. And we must be justifiably shocked – outraged -- when housing itself turns out to be a health risk, a source of mold or unhealthy materials.

Meeting such expectations is not easy. I know how hard it is to make progress. Any success requires dynamic, vocal, and energetic coalitions of people working with all levels of government. But it can be done. Baltimore shows this…so does Syracuse, where during my tenure as mayor, the city of Syracuse benefited immensely from the lead hazard control grant funds awarded by HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control.

For the past decade, our nation has aggressively attacked the epidemic of childhood lead poisoning--and we’ve had great successes. I am thankful for our progress. I know you feel the same way. But troubled “halved” is not trouble eliminated. We have much more to do. Our families are threatened by more than lead-based paint. A host of housing-related health hazards threaten our most vulnerable citizens, in a place that should be the safest place on earth—the home.

Today’s conference marks a broadening of our efforts to address health hazards found in the home. The dangers from lead-based paint are still prevalent and we will continue working hard to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. But we need to broaden our strategy to include other known hazards that threaten families in their homes. We all know that poor housing conditions are associated with a wide range of health conditions, including respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental health.

Housing is an important determinant of health, and substandard housing is a critical public health issue that demands renewed efforts for action. Children spend up to 80-90 percent of their time indoors, including time spent at home, where they may be exposed to a number of biological, physical, and chemical hazards. Millions of homes are substandard and have moderate or severe physical hazards, pest and rodent problems, significant mold problems, poor air quality, and exposures to toxic chemicals.

We are here today to begin a national framework for healthy housing that will mirror our successes in reducing childhood lead poisoning possible. As a leader in the healthy homes field for over 10 years, HUD is committed to addressing those housing-related health hazards that plague our nation’s children and families. Over the next two and a half days you will hear how HUD plans to address these housing related health hazards as part of our National Strategic Plan.

Specifically, HUD’s National Strategic Plan will address unhealthy housing in a three-prong strategy, including:

  1. Incorporating Healthy Homes Principles into Ongoing Practices and Programs;
  2. Facilitating the expansion from categorical to comprehensive housing-related hazard assessments and interventions, and
  3. Building a National Framework for Implementing a Healthy Homes Agenda.

The HUD’s Healthy Homes Program has spearheaded a significant increase in knowledge about the relationship between housing and health that has resulted in the adoption of healthy housing/green principles across the country. HUD will continue to work with local, state, federal and private-sector partners to create healthy homes and to disseminate information about the critical role that housing plays in the health of our nation. We will continue to work with public housing agencies to adopt integrated pest management techniques, and work to incorporate healthy homes assessments and interventions into public and assisted housing programs.

The HUD-funded National Healthy Homes Training Center managed by CDC will continue to cast a wide net through its programs, with the goal of reaching a variety of personnel who visit homes to provide services or perform other work.

HUD’s new Sustainable and Healthy Housing Initiative will work to better integrate healthy construction and rehab methods into energy-efficient, green and sustainable housing programs.

HUD’s new Healthy Homes Pilot Program will be conducted in selected communities to facilitate interventions in high risk housing and promote the cooperation between health and housing agencies to conduct assessments and interventions for lead-based paint as well as other housing-related hazards.

Lead poisoning is still the number one environmental disease impacting children. While efforts targeted at these high-risk children will still be necessary, it’s time to develop a broad strategy that goes beyond categorical lead-based paint approaches to more comprehensive healthy homes approaches.

The experience of HUD lead and healthy homes grantees and staff – many which of you are gathered here today – and the lessons learned through addressing lead-based paint as a public health problem, will be invaluable resources as we work together to make homes safe, healthy, and energy efficient.
There is another Italian proverb” “Chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire." It means, "No matter where you go, your house is always there waiting."
We want that home to be a healthy home. At HUD, we are committed in making every home a healthy home. I believe strongly, that every family deserves a healthy home.

I welcome your commitment and partnership in this endeavor. Together, we can strengthen and expand our successful partnership. I look forward to working with each of you.

Thank you again for inviting me to this conference. I wish you every success.


Content Archived: February 1, 2012