Kansas City, Mo. (August 1, 2023)
Results from a new preliminary study indicate that weatherizing living spaces can dramatically improve children’s health by improving indoor air quality and reducing exposure to outdoor air pollutants. The research project came about due to previous work and research of the Children’s Mercy Kansas City (CMKC) Healthy Homes Program, where hospital staff witnessed positive health outcomes with many of their young asthma patients whose families had enrolled in the program and received home weatherization repairs.
Dr. Elizabeth J. Friedman, MD, Medical Director of Environmental Health at CMKC said, “This is a great example of both how much our built environment can impact our health and why it is so important to consider our patients’ lives beyond our clinic walls.”
Weatherization is a building upgrade process that keeps indoor air in and outdoor air out. A good weatherization upgrade keeps you safe and comfortable in your home, no matter what the weather is doing. For nearly a decade, Kansas City-based nonprofit Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) administered weatherization and energy efficiency renovations under various partnerships, including the City of Kansas City, MO’s EnergyWorks KC (EWKC) program.
A research partnership with MEC, CMKC and the Center for Economic Information at the University of Missouri Kansas City (CEI) brought even bigger data to the table for a more comprehensive picture of potential health improvements. Staff at CMKC and CEI matched MEC-weatherized homes with CMKC historic health data for acute care visits in children with asthma living in the homes. A research database maintained by CMKC provided encounter-level historic pediatric asthma data, and the CEI team collected additional geographic and census data as part of the KC Health CORE research collaboration with CMKC.
The team compared frequency and severity of healthcare visits before and after the upgrade and found “as much as a 33% reduction in the frequency of acute care visits for children with asthma” who resided in homes that received energy efficiency improvements.
Kevin Kennedy, Environmental Health Program, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, said that for their patients’ families, the preliminary report indicates that “even if you participate in a program like this weatherization program just to make improvements to your home, and not because you were thinking about a health impact, there can also be big improvements in your health, especially if you have a chronic respiratory condition like asthma.”
Kelly Gilbert, Executive Director of MEC said, “this stunning result demands more research to discover which home upgrades have the biggest impact on health, and we look forward to supporting that work in the future.”
The research team is preparing to develop and submit a peer-reviewed academic report with the goal of publication in a research journal later this year.