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Housing and Health

Why is housing important to health?

Recent epidemiological studies have linked substandard housing to increased risk of chronic illness.1 Asthma and other respiratory illnesses have been associated with homes that are damp, cold, or moldy.1-2 Exposure to lead-based paint can lead to elevated blood lead levels, resulting in neurological problems, hypertension, and developmental problems.3 And physical conditions in the home have also been linked to increased injury due to trips, slips, and falls.1,4

Indoor environments are particularly important for child health; children spend as much as 80-90 percent of their time indoors, so their health risks can often be traced back to homes, schools, and other indoor environments.5 The annual cost of childhood diseases attributed to the environment, such as asthma, lead poisoning, cancer, and developmental disabilities is estimated at $54.9 billion.6 For more information, click here.

What is Public Housing?

Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. It is administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH).

According to the 2015 data released by HUD, there are over 2.2 million residents living in public housing.7 These residents are overwhelmingly poor, 89 percent of residents fall into HUD’s “Very Low Income” category, with an income of less than 50 percent of the national median.7 In addition, 32 percent of residents in public housing are senior residents (age 62 and above) who rely primarily on social security payments as their source of income, while an estimated 21 percent of all residents are disabled.7 For more information, click here.

What is the health status of public housing residents?

Residents of public housing suffer disproportionately from chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and depression and other mood disorders when compared to their low-income counterparts that do not reside in public housing.  For more information, click here.

1. Kreiger J, H. D. (2002). Housing and Health: Time Again for Public Health Action. American Journal of Public Health, 92(5), 758-768.

2. Burridge, O. D. (1993). Unhealthy Housing: Research, Remedies, and Reform. New York: Spon Press.

3.Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2007, August 20). Lead Toxicity: What are the Physiologic Effects of Lead Exposure? Retrieved 10 31, 2013, from Environmental Health and Medicine: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=7&po=10

4. Jacobs DE, B. A. (2009). Housing Interventions and Health: A Review of the Evidence. National Center for Healthy Housing.

5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2008). Child-Specific Exposure Factors Handbook (Final Report). Washington: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

6.  Breyesse P, G. W. (2004). The relationship between housing and health. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(15), 1583-1588.

7. Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R). (2016, October 18). DATA SETS | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved January 11, 2017, from https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/pdrdatas.html

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