By Shanon Quinn, Daily News staff writer

Patricia ButterfieldWashington State University Spokane’s medical clinic is not expected to open for more than a year, but its first community health-related project has already begun, nursing professor Patricia Butterfield said Wednesday.

The project, University-Community Partnership to Reduce Children’s Health Disparities, is funded by a $100,000 grant from the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund and will focus on identifying and reducing health risks in the home for families – and particularly children – in poverty.

“Every child has to sleep somewhere,” Butterfield said. “The safety of their home, the quality of the housing, the ability to be in a home that is free from lead, from carbon monoxide, from radon, but also from violence, and also have a sense of stability, is an area that focuses on moving the dial for children’s health.”

Butterfield said there are numerous connections between healthy housing and children’s outcomes decades later.

“It provides them with a level playing field to begin their lives in a good way,” she said.

The program, Butterfield’s brainchild, began with a five-year study in Bozeman, Mont., where nurses worked with low income families.

“We sent nurses into the homes to walk with the parents and discuss the house together,” she said.

The nurses would then work with the families to find practical solution to issues that could affect health.

“In Bozeman 30 percent of the homes had a radon level above the EPA action level – and that’s the second leading cause of lung cancer. We found people that had extremely high levels of carbon monoxide, mold in the walls and rotting pipes,” she said. “But that was Bozeman. It varies from community to community.”

But the community assistance – as important as it is to both the university and the granting organization – is only one facet of the program.

“This initiative will have two components,” Butterfield said. “It will have a research component focusing on listening to communities and conducting epidemiology research and practical action to improve children’s housing health. The other aspect of the project is engagement.”

She said the project will ensure nursing, medical and pharmacy students involved in the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic will gain a critical eye as well as understanding of and commitment to social, community and environmental determinates of health, Butterfield said.

Sharon Smith of the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, said her organization has a long-standing relationship with WSU Spokane and is a supporter of the health clinic as well as Butterfield’s research.

“Patricia came to us a while back,” Smith said. “We got to know each other and talked about her past and her history doing research into environmental housing – especially focused on children. It’s really fascinating and engaging and something that was missing in Spokane.”

Smith said Butterfield’s research fits well with the foundation’s primary goal of reducing poverty.
“So much of that begins at the home, a safe and healthy home environment,” she said.

The lowest income census tracts in Washington state are located in Spokane, Don Barbieri said, adding his foundation’s grant in combination with Butterfield’s research and assistance will serve many purposes.

“Not only to shine a spotlight on the teaching clinic and the residents that are going to be there – the medical students – but will also bring a spotlight on the collaboration of the other heath science partners on the campus who can get outside of campus and learn in real world experience of serving those that are most in need,” he said.

Most fixes for a healthy home will be low and no cost, Butterfield said, but community partnerships do exist to provide help for people with bigger housing related issues.

“Sharon and I believe that it’s very important, as a land grant institution, that we are out there serving those that are most in need of access to not only education but an access to everything we can do as a state to improve their quality of life,” Barbieri said.