A simulation model of building intervention impacts on indoor environmental quality, pediatric asthma, and costs

Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass. Electronic address: .
The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology (Impact Factor: 11.25). 07/2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2013.06.003
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Although indoor environmental conditions can affect pediatric asthmatic patients, few studies have characterized the effect of building interventions on asthma-related outcomes. Simulation models can evaluate such complex systems but have not been applied in this context.
We sought to evaluate the impact of building interventions on indoor environmental quality and pediatric asthma health care use, and to conduct cost comparisons between intervention and health care costs and energy savings.
We applied our previously developed discrete event simulation model (DEM) to simulate the effect of environmental factors, medication compliance, seasonality, and medical history on (1) pollutant concentrations indoors and (2) asthma outcomes in low-income multifamily housing. We estimated health care use and costs at baseline and subsequent to interventions, and then compared health care costs with energy savings and intervention costs.
Interventions, such as integrated pest management and repairing kitchen exhaust fans, led to 7% to 12% reductions in serious asthma events with 1- to 3-year payback periods. Weatherization efforts targeted solely toward tightening a building envelope led to 20% more serious asthma events, but bundling with repairing kitchen exhaust fans and eliminating indoor sources (eg, gas stoves or smokers) mitigated this effect.
Our pediatric asthma model provides a tool to prioritize individual and bundled building interventions based on their effects on health and costs, highlighting the tradeoffs between weatherization, indoor air quality, and health. Our work bridges the gap between clinical and environmental health sciences by increasing physicians' understanding of the effect that home environmental changes can have on their patients' asthma.

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