ARI partners with the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program for contextual study on the Healthier Homes Initiative


ARI partners with the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program for contextual study on the Healthier Homes Initiative

Story by Alexandra Goodman

A healthy community begins at home. That’s the guiding principle of Healthy Homes programs across the country.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has identified seven key goals for healthy homes: ideally, homes should be kept dry, clean, safe, ventilated, pest-free, contaminant-free, and well-maintained.

Healthy Homes programs work to address these concerns in their communities through various education methods and interventions, such as addressing contaminants in homes. These programs have been found to improve clients’ overall physical and mental well-being, economic well-being, and participation in their communities, while at the same time reducing energy and medical costs, health risks in their homes, and energy consumption.

Despite the great potential benefits of Healthy Homes programs, there can sometimes be obstacles to a program’s success and participation. However, these barriers can be mitigated through engagement with community stakeholders and understanding what a specific community needs from a Healthy Homes program.

A recent partnership between the Illinois Applied Research Institute (ARI) and the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program Healthier Homes Initiative sought to understand the needs and expectations of stakeholders in the initiative. The goal of this project and the final report was to support the work of the Healthier Homes implementation team and provide recommendations based on data gathered.

 The Technology and Process Adoption (TAPA) research team at ARI collected data through interviews with stakeholders in the Champaign-Urbana community and at the Carle Foundation Hospital. TAPA methodology strives to enhance both the effectiveness of a program or project in engaging its audience as well as its longevity. This requires identifying the specific audiences of a program or project, as well as their needs, expectations and limitations. These are all used to give recommendations for program and project design to provide the best experience possible for the intended audiences. As such, the TAPA team sought to understand the specific needs of the people who would be most closely involved in the Healthier Homes Initiative: potential clients, medical care professionals, home evaluators, and other community entities.

 The project began in November 2023 with initial research and data collection, including an analysis of other Healthier Homes programs. From December to February, the research team conducted interviews guided by a list of questions designed to draw out as much information from each interviewee.

 After reviewing the information collected in the interviews, the research team compiled recommendations for the Healthier Homes implementation team. These recommendations include short-, medium-, and long-term goals for collaborating with medical care teams and improving client participation rates. While the recommendations generated offered specific advice and strategies to benefit the Champaign-Urbana community, the overarching themes were transparency, clear communication, trust-building, and sensitivity to stakeholders’ unique needs.

 The findings of the report, both the insights gleaned from reviewing other Healthy Homes programs and the recommendations based on the stakeholder interviews, will amplify the Healthier Homes Initiative for the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program, which in turn will have a tangible effect on making communities healthier and stronger.