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$1 Million HUD Grant to Support Air Quality Study Directed at Veterans with COPD

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Illinois Institute of Technology a $1 million research grant to investigate the impact of home air quality on the health of veterans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The research study—led by Brent Stephens, associate professor and director of architectural engineering, director of environmental engineering, and chair of Armour College of Engineering’s civil, architectural, and environmental engineering department—will focus on Chicago-area veterans being treated at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago.

Stephens will collaborate with Mohammad Heidarinejad, assistant professor of architectural engineering, to explore the effectiveness of standalone air filtration for improving indoor air quality, specifically assessing individuals with COPD. For two years veterans will use high-efficiency air cleaners in their homes, which will aid researchers in gathering air quality results and assessing COPD health outcomes compared with results of those who live in homes without air cleaners.

Stephens says, “We are working with veterans, but the research results could help everyone with COPD and give doctors new tools for helping their patients.” He adds, “I’m in engineering but this project has public health implications.”

According to the grant application, the Jesse Brown facility experienced nearly 11,000 clinic visits and 700 emergency room visits from patients with COPD in FY18, costing more than $2.3 million for treatment. If the low-cost sensors prove to be effective, this could be an easy tool for doctors to help assess whether home air quality may be impacting the COPD of their patients.

Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, indicates the importance of investing in the science behind protecting families from potentially dangerous home health hazards. He shares, “You can’t be healthy if your home is sick. These grants will improve our knowledge about how to improve living conditions inside our homes.”

Stephens and Heidarinejad will also work in partnership with Israel “Rudi” Rubinstein, M.D., associate chief of staff for research at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and Elevate Energy to investigate potential housing-related factors that may contribute to increased COPD exacerbations, particularly within underserved, socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods of Chicago.

Brent Stephens and Mohammad Heidarinejad, “Air Filtration to Improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Outcomes in a High-Risk Urban Population of U.S. Military Veterans,” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ($1 Million)

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