Our health and well-being are connected to where we live, not just how we live. We spend a significant amount of time in our homes, and the quality of our home impacts our overall health. There are several ways in which housing is connected to our health, including the physical conditions of the home, the conditions of the community surrounding the home and the affordability of proper housing. The American Public Health Association (APHA) has highlighted the importance of healthy housing during National Public Health Week.1
A home that is safe and free from structural and physical problems can help to promote physical and mental health. However, a poor-quality home can expose people to hazards that negatively impact health. Factors such as exposure to lead, poor indoor air quality or exposure to extreme heat or cold temperatures can place family members at risk for health problems or injury, especially children and the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately six million homes in the United States are considered substandard.2, 3
Low income communities are more likely to have housing options that are substandard, which in turn, can affect the quality of the surrounding community. Our health is also impacted by the social, physical and economic conditions of the neighborhood in which we live. Neighborhoods that are safe, have access to healthy and affordable foods and are free from crime have access to good schools and employment can help promote positive health and well-being. In contrast, neighborhoods without conditions that support health are more likely to be concentrated in areas with lower socioeconomic status.
People living in lower income areas may only have access to substandard housing, placing them at greater risk for adverse health conditions, which perpetuates a cycle of health disparities. APHA recommends the following actions to help improve the affordability and condition of housing options:
- Work with non-profit organization and city partners to create ordinances that support healthy home environments.
- Urge policymakers to fund programs that monitor and enforce existing housing codes to prevent poor living conditions.
- Adopt health-in-all-policies frameworks to promote cross-disciplinary collaborations across the country for healthy, equitable communities.
- Urge Congress to adequately fund rental assistance options to ensure community needs for affordable housing.
We all deserve to live in homes that are healthy and safe.
2 https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/default.htm Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.