Tim Takaro

Healthy homes good medicine for young asthma sufferers

December 19, 2007

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By Carol Thorbes

Healthily designed, enviro-friendly homes may reduce asthma symptoms in children as much or more than medication, according to a three-year study led by SFU health sciences associate professor Tim Takaro.

Takaro (above) collaborated with U.S. researchers to study how 35 environmentally friendly homes in a new 1600-unit West Seattle housing development affected the health of families with asthmatic children.

Takaro’s team monitored the health of children and parents in the low-income residences, known as Breathe Easy Homes, for a year, comparing the results with the previous year previously when they were living in older homes. That testing monitored the benefits of working with a community health worker to implement a proven strategy for reducing asthma triggers.

The researchers found that asthmatic children in the Breathe-Easy homes had 70-per-cent more symptom-free days during a two-week period than they did in their previous homes.

The children also needed 300 per-cent less urgent clinical care, such as unscheduled visits to the doctor for medication and emergency room visits. The parents also experienced significant “quality of life” improvements in the new homes.

“The results are very important, especially when you consider that thousands of asthmatics live in unhealthy housing,” notes Takaro, a physician and an expert on the effects environmental hazards on human health.

“These are substantial improvements in health, as good or better than those from any medications,” says Takaro. “They add to the arsenal of effective interventions in childhood asthma. Home design, building materials, construction practices and code can be improved to help kids with asthma.”

Researchers from 18 partner groups in the Seattle area, including King County Housing Authority and Puget Sound Neighborhood Health Centre, worked with Takaro on the study. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development department funded the project.

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