NCHH's Dr. David Jacobs and Amanda Reddy Comment on Housing as Both Cause and Cure for Health
According to NCHH's David Jacobs and Amanda Reddy, housing may be both the cause and the cure for many health problems. The two healthy housing experts were quoted in The Nation's Health, published today by the American Public Health Association (APHA).
According to the article, "Healthy, Safe Housing Linked to Healthier, Longer Lives: Housing a Social Determinant of Health," the third in a series on the role of social determinants of health, too many U.S. homes fall short of the minimum health and safety standards, and the homes that meet the standards are prohibitively expensive.
Substandard housing affects many Americans’ health. According to the 2013 American Housing Survey, severe physical defects (including a lack of heat or running water) plagued nearly two million homes from 2005 to 2009. Unhealthy home environments, such as excessive moisture and mold, household pests, and dirty flooring, can trigger asthma attacks.
And while exposure levels have fallen gradually since the 1970s, lead continues to be a problem in 24 million homes across the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood lead exposure results in lifelong consequences, including decreased IQ and cognitive function, developmental delays, and behavioral problems. Very high levels of lead exposure can cause seizures, coma, and even death. The costs of treating individuals who have been exposed to lead is staggering and are not limited to healthcare: Lead poisoning creates to financial burden and stress for the families of those exposed as well as on the educational and legal systems.
Dr. Jacobs, NCHH’s Chief Scientist, states that the problem has been largely economic in nature: “There has been inadequate investment both from the private sector and affordable housing. We continue to have health problems that could be prevented.” In addition to the greater good, investing in healthy housing makes good financial sense: Multiple studies have determined that there is a high return on investment in lead poisoning prevention—to the tune of over $180 billion in savings.
Among the resources noted in the Nation’s Health article is the National Healthy Housing Standard, published jointly by NCHH and APHA in 2014, sets guidelines for creating healthy homes through improved code creation and enforcement.
In the interest of creating healthier homes, NCHH's wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, Healthy Housing Solutions (Solutions), has unveiled the Healthy Communities index, an open-source data repository, as well as an assessment tool that housing and health professionals can use to gauge the healthfulness and safety of their respective communities. Through repair recommendations and best practices, the index and assessment tool offer ways to improve homes and communities. Solutions is working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on this project through its Healthy Communities Transformation Initiative.
“We are interested in not only how housing contributes to problems but also in how it can be part of the solution,” said Ms. Reddy, NCHH's Director of Strategy and Impact.
Read the full story here. Learn more about the National Healthy Housing Standard here.