[Business Record]

A health improvement project that began as a pilot a year ago has grown into a citywide initiative to address asthma in Des Moines children.

The initial project, called Healthy Homes East Bank, targeted deteriorating housing in the Capitol Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and Capitol East neighborhoods, where moisture, mold and pests have led to elevated rates of asthma.

Now, as Healthy Homes Des Moines, the collaborative effort has expanded to handle referrals throughout the city of Des Moines. In addition to providing asthma assessments, the program provides housing assessments for the families and remediation of properties affected by mold, old carpeting or other asthma triggers.

“Starting at a smaller scale was to develop our process and align our partners,” said Claire Richmond, project manager for Healthy Homes Des Moines. “Once all the partners were aligned, we made the decision to expand, which was in March.”

Richmond, who has a master’s degree in public health and urban planning, previously worked in outreach and housing policy for Iowa City.

Partners in the project include the Polk County Housing Trust Fund, Polk County Health Department, Mercy Medical Center, Broadlawns Medical Center, UnityPoint Health, the city of Des Moines, Viva East Bank, the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Polk County Public Works and Des Moines Public Schools.

With the expanded program, Des Moines residents are being referred by medical providers as fellas through Des Moines Public Schools nurses. Forty-one households are currently being assisted through he program. Additionally, 16 homes have been identified as needing modification, and four of those have already been completed.

“Forty-four percent of our referrals to the program have been through the schools,” Richmond said. “We strengthened our partnership with the schools dramatically with the expansion.”

The program began with a $250,000 BUILD Health Challenge grant received last year, which was matched by more $500,000 in hospital funding and in-kind services from social services agencies in Greater Des Moines. Richmond said the program has one more year of funding through the national grant; it has yet to determine how it will be sustained.

To bettie assess how well the program is serving families, Healthy Homes Des Moines plans to launch a data management tool.

“What we really hope to do with the data we’re collecting is to generate a return on investment. We want to paint a more accurate picture by serving more families,” she said. “I expect to have more of that information about cost saving in the next year, which is really exciting.”