Klassen is a professor and chair of the Department of Community Health and Prevention and associate dean for research in the School of Public Health. Her public health research is on social determinants of chronic disease disparities, and the implementation and evaluation of individual and contextual interventions to reduce patterns of excess burden.
Last summer, Philadelphia’s public housing went smoke-free in one of the largest public health changes of its kind in the country. The new policy was informed by a solid base of scientific evidence — some of which was generated through evaluation research conducted by city agencies and Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health.
Ann Klassen, a professor in the School of Public Health, has worked with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and Philadelphia Department of Public Health since 2011 on the evaluation of the impact of smoking in public housing. The monitoring data from this evaluation was an important element of the evidence used in support of the new policy.
Through her research, Klassen found that 70 to 85 percent of common areas and over 20 percent of non-smoker apartments had detectable nicotine levels.
“That provides important evidence that previous policies were not effective in protecting residents, and that it is not possible to avoid harmful levels of secondhand smoke without community-wide smoke-free policies,” Klassen says. “When tobacco is used anywhere in a multi-unit building, there’s really no part of the building that won’t have air exchange and won’t be exposed to that secondhand smoke.”