[WHOtv.com]

A collaborative effort to eliminate childhood asthma and improve deteriorating housing in three neighborhoods east of downtown launches this week, and it’s got half-a-million dollars in its pocket.

Healthy Homes East Bank, the program from local non-profit organization, Viva East Bank, launches Wednesday in the Capitol Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and Capitol East neighborhoods. With $250,000 in grant funding from the national BUILD Health Challenge, and another $250,000 in matching funds from area hospitals, the program will fund home assessments conducted by Polk County health professionals.

These home assessments will identify moisture, mold and pests in deteriorating homes and create a list of necessary improvements that will be passed along to the Polk County Housing Trust Fund, a local non-profit dedicated to improving affordable housing options, which will find contractors to do the work at no cost to the homeowner. Home assessments will start with families of asthma patients who visit area hospitals like Unity Point Health, Mercy, and Broadlawns.

The Polk County Health Department says asthma rates and asthma-related visits to the pediatric emergency room have increased in Des Moines, and improving neglected homes in these east neighborhoods is expected to reduce the issue. Des Moines is one of only seven communities in the U.S. receiving a BUILD Health Challenge grant to create a new community improvement project.

The program’s official launch is Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Park Community Center. Officials expect home assessments and improvements to begin within three months.