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Tribal Healthy Homes Center program

Members of the Choctaw Nation practice testing for lead in paint during a 2012 training in Biloxi, Miss., conducted by the Tribal Healthy Homes Center, a program offered through MSU Extension. The event had 29 participants, 25 of whom were also certified in a special Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting program.

BOZEMAN -- The Montana State University Extension Tribal Housing and Environmental Health Program will receive the 2012 National Award for Diversity at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in November.

The award recognizes the program’s “support of diversity, pluralism and innovation” in the work that it does in three national initiatives:

* The Tribal Healthy Homes Assessment and Training Center at MSU.

* The Native Asthma Intervention and Reduction program.

*The National Tribal Pollution Prevention Working Group, or Tribal P2.

“These are all projects with a national scope that help those in reservation communities, where concerns about the quality and health impacts of housing are often pressing issues,” said Mike Vogel, director of the Tribal Healthy Homes Assessment and Training Center.

“Receiving the diversity award makes us proud. These projects exemplify our commitment to reach out to all people.”

Through online peer interactions, curriculum distribution, non-native programs expanded by the Environmental Protection Agency, hands-on trainings and engagement, the three projects are designed to engage native families and their communities to foster the connections needed to improve health, housing and the environment.

Tribal Healthy Homes worked with almost 500 people during 15 training sessions held throughout the United States. Another 175 people received EPA certification for home renovation.

“We see the impact of this program in the thousands of homes that have been assessed for adverse health impacts,” said Vogel, Extension housing and environmental health specialist.

“We have engaged 110 different tribes in the process of creating and maintaining healthier communities.”

Native AIR distributes packs containing interactive and multimedia materials on combating asthma in children to thousands of families in American Indian communities. Vogel said the program has been so well-received that it has been copied for release to the general population.

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Tribal P2 works to reduce pollution and manage chemical risks by helping tribes cooperate with the EPA and network with other communities and organizations, with much of the focus aimed at bolstering schools and tribal environmental offices.

Vogel said the programs owe their success, and the recognition brought by the APLU diversity award, to the programs’ team members, including: Myla Kelly, Barbara Allen, Deborah Albin, Glenda Barnes and Mary Schaad.

The fact that the program, which is the biggest of its kind, is national in scope only adds to the sustainability and effect of housing and health programs offered through MSU Extension, Vogel said.

“This puts us in a leadership role,” Vogel said. “That’s something Montanans can be proud of. People know about Extension, but typically they think we are mostly involved in agriculture.

"What we do with the Tribal Housing and Environmental Health Program is a great example of the Extension mission – we are directly involved with projects that are aimed at helping every consumer.”

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