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Home Is Where the Health Is

NWCPHP faculty member Chuck Treser, MPH, talks about a recent healthy homes training he taught for the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services.
Home Is Where the Health Is

A container house in Guam

NWCPHP faculty member Chuck Treser, MPH, delivers healthy homes trainings throughout the Northwest and beyond, most recently at the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services.

September 26, 2013

NWCPHP faculty member Chuck Treser, MPH, delivers healthy homes trainings throughout the Northwest and beyond. He most recently taught a two-day course for nurses, inspectors, environmental health specialists, and community educators at the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services. Even though Treser has worked in environmental health for 40 years, he says he always learns something new while preparing and delivering a course.

Treser says it’s important to first consider how climate, geography, and resources affect housing. In this case, Guam’s relatively flat topography and the prevalence of typhoons make many homes vulnerable during storm season.

Treser’s course, “Essentials for Healthy Housing Practitioners,” focuses less on disaster preparedness and more on how to reduce disease and injury in everyday life. He teaches participants how to identify housing conditions that lead to health problems. Participants learn how to characterize risk, consider vulnerable populations, and understand building codes that can be used to enforce remediation.

In Guam, moisture and tropical insects are common problems, as well as radon deposits on the north part of the island. For low-income residents, minimal amounts of building materials and codes lead to poorly built or ad-hoc structures that can also be dangerous. On a positive note, residents don’t have to worry about the air quality risks associated with home heating or concern themselves about dry rot from ice deposits, two frequent cold weather concerns.

During the 17-hour course, Treser used a series of practical exercises to help participants tie related issues together and think holistically about solving problems. Most importantly, he explains, “We got into groups where public health, clinical providers, and building experts could share information." He believes this type of “cross-pollination” is the key to improving health since “no agency can do it alone.”

Treser notes that this more balanced approach will help public health tackle emerging home issues like the increased presence of chemicals and effects of climate change. As part of this effort, the National Center for Healthy Housing and the American Public Health Association are preparing to release new healthy home standards for the first time since 1988. Looking back on a long career Treser comments, “We’re still struggling with some of the same issues as when I began, like lead paint and rodents, but at least now we see more of the interconnections.”

Visit the NWCPHP training page to learn more about healthy homes courses. To schedule a training for your staff, contact Trudy San Jose White.

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