Ensuring the over health and well-being of a community is dependent not only on the healthcare professionals and resources in that community, but also the accessibility and reach of healthcare knowledge. Healthy Androscoggin established The Neighbor to Neighbor Healthy Homes Program in 2018 in order to spread awareness about environmental health risks in the homes of New Mainers by promoting community-held healthcare knowledge. The New Mainers working with Healthy Androscoggin are community members who have recently resettled in Maine from different African origin countries. The aim of the Neighbor to Neighbor Program, which is a branch of the Healthy Homes Initiative, is to identify and mitigate the most prevalent environmental health risks in the homes of New Mainers in Lewiston, Maine. Healthy Androscoggin collaborated with ambassadors from different African origin countries to educate their friends, families, and neighbors in order to share the Healthy Homes Education and behaviors that are affordable, attainable, and long-lasting. Healthy Androscoggin created and administered two surveys over the course of three weeks in order to evaluate the initial transfer and retention of healthcare knowledge among participating neighbors. Through a partnership between Bates College Environmental Studies Program and Healthy Androscoggin, we developed a third survey that was conducted eight months after the initial Healthy Homes Education session. The third survey aimed to identify what Healthy Homes behaviors were difficult to maintain, if the neighbors remembered all of the information from the initial education session, and if participants noticed changes in their personal health. The surveys consisted of both ‘yes/no’ and narrative questions in which ambassadors followed-up with neighbors about their experience in the program. The results from all three surveys were analyzed in order to recognize the current environmental health concerns among New Mainers, determine the overall success of the health education model, and inform future directions for the program. One major finding from the third survey was that 100 percent of the participants noticed changes in their overall health over the eight-month program period. In addition, 80 percent of the participating neighbors shared their Healthy Homes education with friends, family, and peers not formally enrolled in the program. This demonstrates that the program will continue to function even without the initial education provided by Healthy Androscoggin. Furthermore, this suggests that Healthy Androscoggin successfully promoted community-held healthcare knowledge about environmental health risks in Lewiston was established. Survey 3 also identified a new health concern among New Mainers that had not been explicitly addressed by the program. Some participating neighbors were concerned that their homes were not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors or that the existing detectors were not 3 functioning properly. Perhaps the most noteworthy findings from the third survey was that the Healthy Homes information assisted participants as they searched for new homes, thus encouraging tenants to advocate for their health. One third of participants from Survey 3 moved to new homes over the course of the eight months and explained that their decision to move and criteria for a new home was informed by the Healthy Homes Education. Lastly, multiple neighbors expressed a need for additional support when communicating with landlords about hazards such as lead and radon exposure. This alludes to the broader, systematic barriers that prevent those who are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards from gaining true autonomy and control over their health. It is clear from the survey results that individual and community actions were successful in promoting community held healthcare knowledge. However, these actions can only go so far without structural, social, and political support.
Woods, Kaelyn; Ausman, Emily; and Klein, Josh, "Healthy Homes Neighbor to Neighbor Model" (2019). Community Engaged Research Reports. 52.