STILLWATER – The Oklahoma State University App Center has developed a mobile app for information about household health risks that professionals can share with individuals who want help in identifying indoor environmental hazards.
OSU designed the Healthy Homes Partners app for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD, which is among the key federal agencies and national sources for information about household hazards such as mold contamination, carbon monoxide poisoning, lead exposure, asthma triggers and other risks.
Rather than a consumer guide, the Healthy Homes Partners app puts technical information and guidance in the hands of housing experts and health care providers who advise people living with dangerous health conditions.
“It allows indoor environmental health professionals to help their clients navigate common residential health hazards and identify sources, find mitigation and removal recommendations and find more information from federal agencies,” said Dr. Michael Goldschmidt, national director of the Healthy Homes Partnership and associate teaching professor and state extension housing specialist at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “The app provides the stakeholder with specific action steps to use with their clients and a room-by-room checklist.”
Participants in app testing said the checklist is one of its most valuable features. During home visits, housing experts will use the app to advise clients while inspecting each room of the home. The app then generates a report with recommendations.
Until now, that information was only available in online or in printed publications, but updating material was slow. The mobile app makes updating the information faster. For example, the app can be revised rapidly as recommendations change for what is considered dangerous blood lead levels in children.
“We were able to take feedback from beta testing and add improvements that the partners really liked, such as the checklist,” said Jai Rajendran, head of the OSU App Center and technology and business development manager for the university’s Technology Development Center. “Working with a large government agency like HUD was valuable for the developers because they got to know how to interact with a large client and manage a project this size.”
For OSU App Center student interns, who work as developers and designers, experience working with mobile apps of varying complexities, both with university and off-campus projects, provides valuable career training and grows the center’s abilities. “The App Center is a good resource for projects from any size organization,” said Rajendran.
Funding to develop the informational app was awarded to OSU through a competitive grant from the HUD Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, its Healthy Homes Partnership, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Healthy Homes Partnership is made up of university extension services and federal agencies.
“Based on our resources at the App Center, I knew we had a good chance of securing the grant,” said Dr. Gina Peek, OSU assistant professor and housing and consumer specialist and the grant applicant. “The App Center worked with HUD partners to developed something that many people today prefer to use to receive information.”
The free Healthy Homes Partnership app is available for iOS smartphones and tablets and can be downloaded from the Apple Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/healthy-homes-partners/id1244368357?mt=8. Consumer information about home health risks is available at http://extensionhealthyhomes.org/ccontent.html.