The Vision 2020 chairs and editorial staff meet regularly through teleconferences to update each other on important developments in our ten focus areas. A recent meeting included an update from David Jacobs, Ph.D., director of research at the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), and our Vision 2020 Chair for Indoor Environmental Quality. Jacobs addressed progress on NCHH research in Chicago and Minnesota.

The Chicago MIGHHTY Study: Moving into Green Healthy Housing—The Yield in Reduced Medical Care Costs and Improved Health is tracking residents moving from stressed public housing into green, healthy housing to see if the change will yield health benefits. The data, now being compiled, will be published in November, but preliminary results are very promising, Jacobs told us. Unfortunately, it appears researchers are not finding a strong correlation between healthy housing and Medicaid savings, perhaps because study participants were exposed to preventive health training that prompted them to use medical wellness care more frequently as they become more aware of the benefits of proactively responding to potential health issues.

The Minnesota GREAT Study: Green Rehabilitation of Elder Apartment Treatments is the nation’s first study of the health outcomes among older Americans following rehabilitation using green healthy housing methods. If green healthy housing rehabilitation is shown to improve health and help contain health care costs, such investments in elder housing are likely to alleviate suffering in later years and also be cost-effective.

Watts and Well-Being: Do Residential Energy Conservation Upgrades Improve Health? This is the first widespread study to evaluate specific health improvements related to common energy improvement measures now used in this country. Similar studies have been conducted in Europe with impressive results. While early efforts to improve energy conservation may have inadvertently resulted in mold, moisture, and other indoor environmental problems, more recent energy conservation studies suggest that health actually may be improved by energy upgrades to buildings.

All of this work seeks to provide a scientific basis and an economic benefit analysis related to health care costs and how these can be mitigated with improved indoor environmental quality.

Now that health care reform appears firmly on track, it may be possible to obtain funding for green building improvements that prove medical cost benefits. Already, funding has become available for home health care improvements such as bathroom grab bars and wheelchair ramps that allow patients to remain at home, a desirable and low-cost option. Last year, $100 million of the Affordable Care Act went to prevention. Green improvements may find a place under the umbrella of prevention if studies such as these undertaken by the NCHH yield positive results.