Massachusetts Low Income Energy Assistance Program
- Boston University Child HIA Working Group
The health impact assessment (HIA) addressed the health risks for low-income children associated with unaffordable energy costs. Some of the pathways and health issues explored included the tradeoffs that families face between paying energy bills and buying food—sometimes referred to as "heat or eat"—and the resulting nutritional risks to children. They also studied the health risks—such as burns and carbon monoxide poisoning—that can result when families use unsafe heating sources when energy bills become too high. Finally, they identified the unhealthy living conditions faced by families that were no longer able to afford adequate housing because of high energy costs (e.g., exposure to pests; water leaks and mold; peeling lead paint; and the resulting health hazards, such as asthma, injuries and lead poisoning). Recommendations from the report included: 1) fully funding LIHEAP; 2) increasing LIHEAP benefit levels to vulnerable families; 3) extending outreach services to clinicians in health care settings; 4) creating an initiative that addresses the needs of families on LIHEAP waiting lists; 5) enforcing required data collection on arrearages and disconnections from utility companies; and 6) exploring the rise of the home energy insecurity scale.
The HIA ultimately contributed to a decision to increase the level of funding to the program. Groups in Rhode Island used the report to advocate for increased levels of funding as well.