HealthiAir Community Action Pack
Center for Social Design / Baltimore, Md. / August 2017–July 2018
with Douglass Homes and the Baltimore City Health Department
In the fall of 2016, a group of both graduate and undergraduate students at the Center for Social Design at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) partnered with the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) to address the significance of smoking in Baltimore. The students created a pop-up event, called HealthiAir, which creates dialogue around shared experiences of smoking addiction, as well as the benefits and challenges of creating a smoke-free comfort zone in one’s home.
Building on the principles of the original HealthiAir, in the fall of 2017, our class refocused the project to address Public Housing. Starting July 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandated that all U.S. Public Housing must be smoke-free. While they provided a guidebook for the transition, it is mostly up to each city’s housing authority to decide how this change will be enacted and monitored.
Continuing to collaborate with BCHD, we worked within the community of Douglass Homes, a Baltimore public housing development, and their Tenant Council President.
After connecting with residents through gatherings in the Douglass Homes community center, events in the surrounding community, surveys, and interviews, we realized that many residents were unaware of the new policy, and if they did know about it, there were many misconceptions about what would happen come July. Additionally, many residents believed that this policy was against their rights as tenants and did not understand why HUD was so concerned with taking away their ability to smoke in their own home, while they were dealing with bigger issues (i.e. lack of access to nutritious food, potable water, and reliable public transportation).
Many residents we spoke with had been smoking since an early age and use it as a way to relieve stress. While many wanted to quit, they had difficulty letting the habit go, some even seeing it as essential to them as food and water.
With all of this in mind, we designed the HealthiAir Community Action Pack. The Action Pack is a tool that residents, management, and the Health Department can use to bring the community together while helping alleviate stress in a healthy way. The main component of the pack is a card deck of community events; each card lists the event name, instructions and materials, as well as potential community partners or resources. Some of the events are directly smoking related, such as a Smoking Cessation Class or the HealthiAir Pop-Up, while others work toward community pride or building a healthy lifestyle (i.e. Cooking Classes or Painting a Community Mural).
Myself and two other students who worked on this project continued to work with BCHD to build upon research and prototypes created in the fall. We took the final iteration from the fall semester back to Douglass homes and held a pop-up feedback session, where we asked residents around the community center their thoughts. We met with BCHD staff to pass on our findings, the Action Pack, and co-created the beginnings of an implementation strategy for this new tool.
To learn more about this class, our journey, and the HealthiAir Community Action Pack, please visit our process blog.