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UCLA Center for Health Policy Research receives $3 million to combat effects of smoking in multi-unit housing in Los Angeles

New project aims to encourage smoke-free housing and reduce health disparities

September 30, 2014

      The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research has been awarded a $3 million federal grant to combat the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke among two highly-affected groups: low-income Latino and African-American families living in Los Angeles, Calif.

      The three-year, Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) award is part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative.

      The grant will fund the implementation of a comprehensive community action plan to reduce exposure to smoking in multi-unit apartment buildings.

      Latinos comprise approximately half (48 percent) of the city's population and 56 percent of all Latino households live in multi-unit buildings. African-Americans account for approximately 11 percent of the city's population and more than half (54 percent) live in multi-unit housing. Both populations are vulnerable to high rates of chronic disease including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of secondhand smoke. The City of Los Angeles lags behind other cities in the county in adopting smoke-free housing policies. 

      "You shouldn't be exposed to a known health risk just by virtue of where you live," said Steven P. Wallace, the Center's associate director and the principal investigator for the grant. "This project is designed to make home a safe and healthy place for some of the most vulnerable populations in Los Angeles."

      The award will expand the work of the Center's Health Disparities and Health DATA Programs in partnership with Smokefree Air for Everyone (SAFE), a coalition of organizations and health agencies that educate apartment owners and managers about how to adopt regulations and implement smoke-free housing policies for their apartments.  

      Project partners include CDTech Community Development Corporation, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles Unified School District, American Lung Association, Change Lab Solutions, USC Tobacco Center for Regulatory Sciences in Vulnerable Populations, and the UCLA School of Medicine which will provide linkages to community health clinics providing smoking cessation services. Esther Schiller, founder of SAFE, will serve as lead strategic consultant.

      "This is a team effort to strengthen the collective capacity of the coalition to reduce health disparities related to tobacco use and secondhand smoke in housing environments," said Peggy Toy, Health DATA program director and REACH project director.  

      The S.A.F.E. Action Plan is designed to achieve four objectives:
      • Increase access to smoke-free housing environments for at least 2,000 tenants in 30 apartment complexes.

      • Increase positive perceptions and actions toward smoke-free housing among 3,000 Latino and African-American family members in 750 households.

      • Increase public education and mobilization of 120 opinion leaders from local community organizations to reach 12,000 constituents of these organizations.

      • Increase the opportunities for approximately 1,500 people who smoke to access smoking cessation services.

      The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) award is part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health care spending. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will administer the grants, which will run for three years, subject to availability of funds.

      The UCLA project will receive $1 million in the first year with the additional $2 million allotted for years two and three. Overall, HHS awarded $35 million in new grant awards to 49 local health agencies. REACH, a CDC program that began in 1999, focuses on racial and ethnic communities experiencing health disparities. Awardees include local governmental agencies, community-based nongovernmental organizations, tribes and tribal organizations, Urban Indian Health Programs, and tribal and intertribal consortia. They will use public health strategies to reduce tobacco use and exposure, improve nutrition, increase physical activity, and improve access to chronic disease prevention, risk reduction, and management opportunities.

      REACH is financed in part by the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care Act.

      "In this country, chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death, disability and health care costs, accounting for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year, and more than 80 percent of the $2.7 trillion our nation spends annually on medical care," said Wallace. "The UCLA-SAFE effort will contribute to improvements in health and a reduction of chronic disease among the most vulnerable populations in Los Angeles."