Easing implementation of government policies within public housing

A cigarette

Each year, almost 4 million people globally die unnecessarily from illnesses brought on by household air pollution. Research evidence has revealed that the home environment can have a higher concentration of air pollutants than outdoor air – even compared to the cities with the highest levels of outdoor air pollution. In the United States, indoor air pollution is a particular concern for multi-unit homes where second hand smoke degrades air quality. Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke remain the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. While much progress has been made reducing overall tobacco use, socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals and communities have been left behind in much of the anti-smoking campaigns and programs. This means that while the overall number of smokers are going down, the numbers of those exposed to secondhand smoke are concentrated among economically marginalized populations.

Recently, there has been increased momentum in the adoption of smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing, aimed at reducing secondhand smoke exposure. One important policy step relating to this was introduced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2016. This nationwide rule mandates the adoption of smoke-free policies in all 3,400 public housing authorities across the US.

Dr. Daniel Brooks, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health, and his team have focused on learning about the implementation approaches adopted from the public housing authorities who already had smoke-free policies in place within their units before the mandate was released. The team looked at this voluntary adoption to provide guidance for other public housing authorities who are in the process of implementing the policy with the goal of gaining the support of the residents, minimizing negative consequences of this policy implementation, and maximizing the health benefit for everyone in the community.

With pilot funding made possible by idea hub, the team distributed online surveys to public housing authority directors, completed site visits to public housing authorities across the country, and conducted individual interviews and focus groups with residents to garner information, straight from the source.

Dr. Brooks and his team used the information collected from visits and surveys to develop a toolkit for the 2,700 public housing authorities who needed to adopt the mandatory smoke-free policies implemented by HUD. This toolkit serves as a how-to guide and helps to aid public housing authorities to more easily implement these changes to ensure lasting and beneficial change within public housing.

Adapted from: Increasing Resident Engagement in Implementation of Smoke-free Policies in Public Housing pilot funding report.

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