April 11, 2020 ~ Healthy Housing

Today’s theme for National Public Health Week is Healthy Housing. Therefore, we could like to highlight Rachelle Menanteau Peleska, who is the current Director of Education and Outreach at the Sustainable Resources Center (SRC). Rachelle has worked in the area of Lead Poisoning Prevention for 12 years.

How did you get involved in this area of public health? Was it something you knew you always wanted to do? 

As an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota with majors in Biology and Physiology, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, nursing or research. At the end of my senior year, a mentor from the Biology Leadership Club suggested I explore the field of Public Health. His advice changed the course of my life. I applied to Tulane’s University Public Health Program and their joint Peace Corps Internationalist Program, and, once I got accepted, I never looked back!

What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of your area of public health?

The true level of community need. Inner cities are growing exponentially, and health disparities are increasing at alarming rates. Society often overlooks the community needs and the realities that face families every day. We need public health at all levels!

Why are you passionate about public health? 

The public health work that I have most experience within my career has been about community health education and disease prevention. The aspects I love are that I can be creative, flexible and interactive with communities to make changes in improving the quality of people’s lives. Be it in a remote village or large city, the concept of health and social well-being is a vital part of everyone’s lives. Working hard in partnering with other leaders to accomplish a goal that benefits the greater good is my greatest satisfaction.

How do you see your area of public health evolving or changing in the future?

We have already implemented changes to our work in lead poisoning prevention by including not only lead education but also healthy homes assessments and radon testing. The area of public health is so broad that when we have opportunities to interact with families, we want to take a holistic approach to our home visits and address as many home hazards that affect the health of the family. In many cases, public health professionals are the families “first line of defense” or “first touch,” so the need to respond to multiple health issues is essential to creating a healthy and holistic environment.

What are some of the programs available through the Sustainable Resources Center?

Sustainable Resources Center, Inc. (SRC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the cause of Healthy Homes. Our mission is to create healthy and energy efficient homes environments in partnership with families and communities. Our programs include weatherization, lead hazard education and control, and aging-in-place services.

Are you working to ensure that these programs are available in an equitable manner across the Twin Cities and suburbs?

Our weatherization, lead hazard control and aging-in-place programs are offered in Hennepin County. However, our lead education outreach, which includes lead testing, is available throughout Minnesota.

Sustainable Resources Center

Could you share some about the grant programs available through the Sustainable Resources Center? (Who are they available to? Do they only cover the cost of certain services? Who does the necessary work?)

Our grant programs focus on low-income households in Hennepin County including the elderly, people with disabilities, families with children, and households with a high energy burden or lead poisoning hazards. 

What is the best way for homeowners to learn more? (Is your website the best resource?)

I suggest visiting our website to learn more about our programs and services. If you would like to give us a call, our main office number is (612)870-4255. You may also contact me directly at (612)872-3282 or r.peleska@src-mn.org.

Is there a cost associated with the community presentations that are offered?

No, all of our lead presentations are free to the public! Our blood lead testing and in-home visits are free as well to qualifying families.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, people are spending more time in their homes right now which could be exacerbating underlying chronic conditions. Are your services currently being offered? If not, do you have any idea when things may be up and running again?

SRC will not close down or stop functioning as an organization. Our staff are conducting case management from home and working creatively to maintain our production levels and meet the needs of our clients. Home visits and assessments will be conducted virtually to the extent possible and contractors will only be conducting exterior work on the homes already in the pipeline.  We are offering a virtual classroom model to deliver the Matter of Balance and Tai Ji classes to the seniors and the Lead Safe Work Practices Course to grantees in the Lead Grant Program.  

This interview is by the Minnesota Public Health Association for National Public Health Week (NPHW) 2020.

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