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    How Energy Efficiency can Alleviate Philly’s Poverty Problem

    Guest post by Mei Chung

    How are public health, energy efficiency, and poverty connected?

    The Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), recently hosted a panel “Bridging the Gap Between Public health, Energy Efficiency, and Poverty”  to explore how public health and energy industries can work together to alleviate poverty featuring Nan Feyler, the Director of the Housing and Child Welfare Initiative for City of Philadelphia; Wes Stewart, the Senior Director of Technical Assistance and Legal Services of Green and Healthy Homes Initiative; and Liz Robinson, the Executive Director of Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA).

    How Poverty Affects the City’s Health & Safety

    Nan Feyler’s Healthy Homes Healthy Kids Program has reduced child hospital visits by 67% and doctor visits by 57% by focusing on housing. Among the nation’s top ten large cities, Philadelphia has the highest percentage of poverty, with children living in poverty increasing from 31.6% to 36.1% over the past 15 years.

    Plus, 56% of Philadelphia’s families are housing insecure. Poor housing quality leads to physical and emotional harm to children, frequent ER visits and hospitalization, homelessness and poor school performance in addition to crowding, unsafe neighborhoods, and frequent moves. All of these consequences lead to truancy/school drop out, domestic violence, homelessness, and child welfare.

    Healthy Homes Healthy Kids Program works in collaboration with St. Christopher’s Hospital for children with severe asthma to successfully mitigate and manage asthma, prevent lead poisoning and address other health and safety hazards. More specifically, the HHHK reduces environmental health and safety hazards by methods including removing mold, energy audits and weatherization. They engage families in healthier behavior by creating a personalized environmental action plan and motivational interviews. Finally, the program partners with a clinical team to have biweekly calls for info sharing and ensure child and caregiver understand and use medication as prescribed. The HHHK has managed to reduce child hospital visits by 67% and doctor visits by 57%.

    Fixing Homes can Reduce Medical Visits and Costs

    Over 9 million families live in an “unhealthy home,” costing taxpayers over $100 billion dollars due to asthma-related incidents, slip & fall injuries, and lead poisoning. There’s over 14 million missed school days due to asthma and 14 million workdays lost to parents taking care of their kids.  Energy efficiency in affordable housing, according to the EPA, has the following noted benefits: reduces GHG emissions, reduce energy costs, improve indoor air quality, increase home value, reduce reliance on energy assistance programs, reduce risk of eviction, and preserve affordability, as well as increase economic benefits through job creation and market development.

    Energy efficiency in affordable housing, according to the EPA, reduces GHG emissions, reduce energy costs, improve indoor air quality, reduce reliance on energy assistance programs, and preserves affordability. Wes Stewart is Senior Director of Technical Assistance and Legal Services of Green and Healthy Homes Initiative who spoke on this topic.

    Families that need this the most don’t know where to start. Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) uses an integrated intervention approach to help families through hazard control and reduction, healthy homes interventions (pest management, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, etc.), protected against indoor allergens, enhanced safety measures, and provided weatherization. Reductions in asthma-related hospital visits have occurred in cities where GHHI directly operates (Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland.) If the whole US implemented this, they could reduce medical visits, missed school and workdays and lower costs.

    How the Energy Coordinating Agency is Saving doomed Homes with Energy Conservation

    EnergyFIT Philly’s mission is to preserve affordable housing and prevent homelessness by preserving these deteriorated homes otherwise ineligible for energy conservation. Row homes deteriorate because of neglect and water damage, leading to the homes being rejected by weatherization programs.

    Liz Robinson mentioned the EnergyFIT services include home repairs, restoration of the home exterior, full energy retrofit, water conservation services, energy bill assistance, and budget counseling. They plan to target entire block renovations to create a larger impact, increase cost-effectiveness. EnergyFIT Philly homes have >40% in energy savings.

    Mei is a freshman at University of Pennsylvania studying Marketing and Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. She was born in Korea, and lived in Shanghai and Hong Kong before coming to the States for 3 and 9 years, respectively. As part of her project for MGMT100 course at UPenn, she and her team worked with the Philadelphia Energy Authority to host an event that brings together the fields of public health, energy efficiency, and poverty.

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with eco-friendly wine and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Pounce DeLeon.

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