Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Gregory Bradbard: Prescription for good health begins with housing – Press

For decades, public health experts have been studying techniques for expanding healthy choices and decreasing risky behavior in an effort to improve overall community health.  But attention is now increasingly shifting to something often overlooked when considering our health – quality of housing.

Health experts and healthcare systems are beginning to consider how the quality of a patient’s housing impacts both physical and mental health. In fact, there are numerous studies that have identified housing as a key social determinant of health. In other words, along with family influences, income, and education, housing is one of several primary factors that impact one’s behavior, environmental conditions, and access to resources.

As an example of this, a study by the American Hospital Association found that when homeless individuals were provided with stable housing, their health choices improved, and overall healthcare costs declined. Specifically, they observed a 33 percent reduction in emergency room visits, a 42 percent reduction in days spent in nursing homes, and Medicaid expenditures declined by 12 percent.

These same patterns apply to individuals and families of all economic levels, particularly for those living at or near the poverty level. For families who struggle to maintain safe, clean housing, family stressors are constant. Unstable housing and frequent moves have been shown to increase mental health problems, developmental delays, anxiety, and depression.

According to a research summary by the Center for Housing Policy, stable, long-term housing increases one’s sense of control over their environment and greatly reduces negative health outcomes related to prolonged stress. When housing is affordable, it frees up family resources for nutritious food and health care expenses. Well-constructed housing can also reduce exposure to environmental risks, including lead poisoning, asthma, and accidental injury.  Neighborhood conditions also matter as safety impacts the likelihood of exercise such as walking or running, usage of drug and alcohol, and exposure to traumatic events that can increase daily stress levels.

Affordable housing is also essential to empowering survivors of domestic violence to escape abusive homes and mothers in poverty to seek health services without fear of having their children taken away.  For individuals with chronic conditions, housing plays a crucial role in determining the direction of their health trajectory.  At the most basic level, healing requires a secure place to rest, store medications, attend to personal hygiene, and for nurses or other specialists to deliver care.

For these reasons, healthcare providers are beginning to build a new prescription for health which includes quality housing.  In fact, healthcare systems are now investing in the development of housing units for high-need patients in an effort to both improve care and reduce costs.  For example, instead of keeping a homeless patient in a hospital bed during recovery from a medical procedure, a dedicated apartment unit could be utilized at a fraction of the cost.

National Community Renaissance (CORE), a nonprofit builder of affordable apartment communities, just established a partnership with the Inland Empire Health Plan to reserve 15 housing units in a new senior community in Rancho Cucamonga to begin construction later this year. Dignity Health has also made an investment in the next phase of family housing to be developed in the Arrowhead Grove neighborhood transformation project in the City of San Bernardino.

It simply makes sense.  Healthy people require healthy environments, and housing is foundational to creating healthy conditions and healthy choices.

Gregory Bradbard is an advocate for breaking the cycle of poverty as President of the SoCal-based Hope Through Housing Foundation, HTHF.org.

Article source: https://www.pe.com/2019/02/08/gregory-bradbard-prescription-for-good-health-begins-with-housing/