[Bronx Times]

A new health conscious building initiative seeks to provide some deeply plagued Bronx neighborhoods with a cleaner bill of health.

On Tuesday, June 9, Montefiore Health System, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, in collaboration with local partners, were awarded $250,000 by the BUILD Health Challenge to implement the Bronx Healthy Buildings Program.

This initiative targets the northwest and central Bronx’s deteriorating housing conditions, seeking to reduce asthma hospitalizations, lowering energy consumption, establishing green jobs and ensuring housing affordability.

According to the Community Health Needs Assessment, there is a high prevalence of asthma and asthma risk factors in relation to the northwest and central Bronx neighborhoods.

Nearly a third of the approximately 170,000 central Bronx residents under age 18 are at serious risk and tenants in these neighborhoods face some of the worst housing conditions in the city with high rates of housing code violations.

A NWBCCC spokesperson said the project is in its planning phase and there is currently no official implementation date set, however they anticipate it to be launched in the fall.

In addition, NWBCCC is currently aggregating multiple sets of data to be analyzed in identifying target buildings which will allow them to project a more precise start date for the project.

The partners were honored at June 9’s BUILD Health Challenge Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C. and selected by the National Program BUILD Health Challenge as one of 18 nationwide partnerships to receive funding.

“Working together with our community partners, we plan to tackle the conditions that affect asthma in the place where sufferers spend much of their time: at home,” Marina Reznik, M.D., M.S., attending physician, Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, and associate professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine said. “We will implement interventions to improve housing conditions, improve health, and reduce the costs associated with frequent and preventable hospitaliz­ations.”

Collaborating with partners like BlocPower, the Emerald Cities Collaborative, and the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, NWBCCC will use the grant to improve substandard housing by conducting building inspections, identifying homes needing repair and retrofitting these buildings to improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency.

“Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition works to develop visionary leadership and build community power by addressing root causes of the issues that we see in our community,” Sandra Lobo, NWBCCC board president expressed. “Healthy Buildings will promote energy efficiency and wholistic community health while addressing rising housing costs and creating local jobs.”

The funds will support recruiting and training community health workers who will better inform tenants and landlords on asthma self-management as well as coordinate education campaigns for at-risk families and individuals.

Receiving supplementary support from Montefiore, the two year, community-based program will focus upon multi-family buildings housing low-income residents whom may not possess the means or ability to improve their living conditions.

BHBP will enforce safe pest control measures combating these common asthma triggers and will use energy savings to finance building upgrades while reducing overall costs for landlords and tenants.

“Inequality is a profound challenge affecting our city, including our health care system and the many factors that promote and ensure health in our communities,” Dr. Jane Bedell, Bronx District Public Health Office assistant commissioner explained. “The key to eliminating health disparities is in our ability to address the social determinants of health. The Bronx Healthy Buildings Program is an inspiring project that will demonstrate how we can change systems to improve health in our city.”