Environmental and Occupational Health Initiatives

Air Quality Health Advisories

  • The Commissioners of the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have agreed to issue a joint press release when ozone or fine particle air pollution levels are of concern, especially for people with health conditions such as asthma. Local health units and media outlets are notified of advisories in their region and are directed to the New York State Department of Health web site which provides advice on ways to reduce exposure and offers steps that citizens can take to reduce air pollution.

Environmental Education and Outreach Project

  • A statewide asthma educational needs assessment was conducted to determine key messages and best practice educational materials on environmental and occupational triggers of asthma. The assessment found persistent problems in communication between providers and their patients. Three brochures were developed in the "working together" series, intended as a shared communication tool for patients and their providers. In addition, a brochure and unique tracker tool were developed to help patients identify and manage their personal asthma triggers. Both the brochure and the asthma trigger tracker are available in Spanish.

Environmental Health Research

  • The New York State Department of Health supports continuing analysis and exploration of which environmental factors are important contributors to asthma development and morbidity. Recent and ongoing research efforts include various studies of the potential health effects associated with ambient air contaminants; a study of the potential health impact of residential proximity to large New York State airports; a study of meteorological conditions and health outcomes; assessment of asthma and contributing factors in the school and home environments; and follow-up health studies of World Trade Center responders and community residents. The New York State Department of Health builds upon information from environmental asthma research to develop more effective public health programs aimed at reducing or eliminating exposure to environmental factors.

Environmental Public Health Tracking

  • Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) is the ongoing collection, integration, analysis, and interpretation of data on environmental hazards and potential health effects related to exposures to these hazards. The New York State Department of Health received a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006 to develop an EPHT network that is tracking a core set of nationally consistent data, including asthma, ambient air concentrations of ozone, and fine particles. The New York State EPHT program is collaborating with the New York State Department of Health Asthma program, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Environmental Protection Agency to disseminate coherent public health messages from the analyses of these data.

Healthy Neighborhoods Program

  • The Healthy Neighborhoods Program provides in-home assessments and interventions for asthma, tobacco cessation, indoor air quality, lead, and fire safety in 10 counties throughout New York State. Interventions may include, among others, asthma trigger education; dust, mold, and pest control measures; distribution of pillow and mattress covers; smoking control and cessation education. An evaluation of this program found significant improvements in the home environment, including tobacco control, fire safety, lead poisoning hazards, and control of pests and mold. The program is currently being evaluated for its impact on persons with asthma (such as a reduction in symptoms, fewer urgent care visits, and improved education) and whether the program is cost effective for helping persons with asthma control their environmental asthma triggers.

Occupational Lung Disease Toolkit

  • A health care provider toolkit for improving the recognition and reporting of occupational lung diseases, including work-related asthma, has been developed and distributed. A brochure, "Is Your Asthma Work-Related?" (English and Spanish) has been developed to help workers identify whether they have work-related asthma.

School Environments

  • Environmentally-Based School Asthma Initiative

    The purpose of this project was to better understand the problem of asthma in the school setting, and to make recommendations based on this information. The influence of the school environment on childhood asthma was examined by conducting surveys of school nurses, custodians, and district facilities managers to understand how the school environment may increase asthma risk. Ongoing analysis of data from the New York State Education Department's 2005 Building Condition Survey provides additional information about the overall condition of NYS school buildings, the condition of building systems (e.g., ventilation, plumbing), the presence of potential environmental asthma triggers and actions schools are taking to improve indoor air quality. Finally, hospitalization data were analyzed to identify patterns that may be linked to building conditions. A report summarizing the findings can be found at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/asthma/asthma_in_schools.

  • The Evaluation of Green School Building Attributes and Their Effect on the Health and Performance of Students and Teachers in New York State

    This project, funded by the US Green Building Council, analyzed the relationship between "healthy and green" school characteristics and student attendance, academic test performance, and asthma hospitalizations. The New York State Education Department's 2005 Building Condition Survey was used to obtain information about indoor air quality, dryness, thermal comfort, cleanliness, the condition of building systems, acoustics and lighting. Information from the NYSED School Report Cards was used to obtain information on student attendance and test scores, and hospitalization data was obtained to measure asthma hospitalization rates in school districts. The NYSDOH also collaborated with NYS United Teachers to conduct survey of teachers to examine relationships between health symptoms and "healthy and green" school attributes. Finally, NYSDOH conducted walkthroughs of 10 area schools, surveyed teachers and school nurses, and took measurements of climate, noise and lighting. This study found that good school IAQ was associated with reduced absenteeism, and many favorable building conditions were associated with reduced health symptoms in teachers. These findings can be found at https://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=8627.

  • Exploring Linkages between Health Outcomes and Environmental Hazards, Exposures, and Interventions for Public Health Tracking and Risk Management

    The primary goal of this project is to build capacity for implementing a K-12 Statewide School Environmental Health (EH) Program by building partnerships, identifying and assessing existing infrastructure and capacity, developing a program plan and evaluating components of that plan. As a result of this project, we expect that more than 4500 schools in over 700 school districts in NYS will be aware of or be able to implement an EH program created specifically for NYS schools. The effective implementation of this plan will improve the school environment and therefore enhance children's, teachers' and other school occupants' health, productivity, and performance. This project is funded by the US EPA.

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