Good health can depend on safe, decent, affordable housing as much as it does on better medicine, lower healthcare costs and smarter prevention strategies, declared U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Dept. of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in their jointly-written article How Housing Matters: Housing As a Platform for Improving Health Outcomes. This installment of the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity series is part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s How Housing Matters Initiative.
Donovan and Sebelius in their article recap connections and benefits that are now well-established by research. For example:
- The decade-long federal focus on lead hazards has reduced the number of children with lead poisoning by 75 percent.
- Permanent supportive housing typically costs less than the revolving door of shelters, emergency rooms, detox centers, prisons, and hospitals.
- Moving from high- to low-poverty neighborhoods has helped extremely low-income women to be less prone to extreme obesity or diabetes.
More housing & health connections came from Jeff Lubell of the Center for Housing Policy in his Dec. 13 Moving Forward column, with a focus on larger market-level development patterns. He astutely focuses on the importance of encouraging communities that have access to green space, availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, and where walking and biking are convenient.
Lubell notes how critical it is to ensure that significant affordable housing is preserved and created in smart growth, transit-oriented developments. Otherwise, transit-accessible, mixed-use, vibrant places become high-priced and force out people of lower income, making them unable to access the health benefits of those choice neighborhoods.
These connections and more between health and housing will be explored in one of the events in the Partnership for Strong Communities’ 2012 IForum Series.