Family smiling outdoors

One-fifth of American Indian youth have been diagnosed with asthma in their lifetimes (CDC, 2013). This and other chronic health conditions are exacerbated by high smoking rates (CDC, 2015), mold, particulate matter from heating practices and other hazards in many American Indian homes (Seltenrich, 2012). Last fall, the UNC Institute for the Environment’s (IE) Environmental Resource Program (ERP) collaborated with the National Center for Healthy Housing, US Environmental Protection Agency, and two American Indian communities to coordinate trainings on hazards that worsen conditions like asthma, cardiovascular health and lead poisoning.

In September, environmental health educators Neasha Graves and Megan Hoert Hughes conducted two 6-hour Healthy Homes for Community Health Workers trainings for staff in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Environment and Natural Resources and Home Health programs in Cherokee, NC. In addition to sharing information on sources of hazards in homes, they emphasized strategies for communicating steps to reduce exposure to mold, lead, volatile organic compounds and other hazards professionals might identify during home visits. One participant of those trainings was environmental specialist Scott Hansen of the Catawba Indian Nation’s Environmental Services Department.

Hansen requested a tailored training that would aid the Catawba Indian Nation in addressing specific environmental health hazards in homes throughout the Rock Hill, SC community. Graves conducted a three-hour training in December on poor indoor air quality and integrated pest management for professionals in the tribal community’s public health, housing, and social services departments, as well as tribal leadership. Hansen views this training as a catalyst for broader outreach. “We’re excited to partner with UNC to coordinate this training and additional professional and community outreach activities. These trainings and educational tools will help us build on what we’re learning to implement community-wide strategies around improved air quality and pest management in homes.”

ERP is the public service and outreach unit of UNC IE. The trainings were provided through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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