A community health, grassroots approach is integral to creating a health through housing population health strategy, according to a new report from the United Hospital Fund (UFH).
The Road Forward: Framework for a Population Health Approach to Health and Housing Partnerships report aims to provide a framework for how community organizations and healthcare providers can partner to address housing security, a key social determinant of health.
Per the Coalition for the Homeless, 132,660 individuals use one of New York City’s homeless shelters in 2019, the report authors said. Meanwhile, more than one-quarter of New York City residents face a high rent burden.
This is likely because there is not adequate housing access for the number of individuals living in the city. Since 2009, the number of individuals living in New York City has increased by 500,00, although housing units have only increased by 100,000.
Want to publish your own articles on DistilINFO Publications?
Send us an email, we will get in touch with you.
Although the link between that limited housing access security and health is clearly defined — housing insecure individuals struggle to manage care, face higher risk of acute care episodes, and face other social determinants of health that impede wellness — there has been little path forward for solving housing as a population health crisis.
“Both homelessness and housing insecurity are known to have detrimental effects on health outcomes, leaving individuals susceptible to higher rates of chronic disease, increased morbidity and mortality rates, and higher risks for mental health effects, such as anxiety,” Kristina Ramos-Callan, UHF program manager and lead author of the report, said in a statement.
“Using a partnership model to address some of the causes and symptoms of the housing crisis presents a unique opportunity for public, private, and nonprofit sectors to work together to improve both the health and housing status the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
This latest UHF report outlines that partnership model and how it will lead specifically to a healthier community.
“At the end of the day, health care providers and policymakers must recognize the importance of housing to individual and community-level health when designing interventions, policies, and regulations,” Ramos-Callan and colleagues wrote in the report. “Similarly, housing policymakers and providers must consider how to foster healthier communities.”
In other words, improving population health through better housing support is going to require a bidirectional, symbiotic relationship between healthcare stakeholders and housing providers and policymakers.
Health through housing interventions foremost must begin with grassroots neighborhood action. Essentially, population health strategy must acknowledge community assets, networks, resources, and priorities. A community health intervention is not effective if it only highlights the priorities and expertise of the medical stakeholder; instead, it needs to lean on what is inside the community in order to be effective.
Efforts should also work with faith-based organizations, schools, or businesses and community leaders to help direct the path forward for improving health through housing, the report authors said.
Next, the report outlined community-wide health and housing partnerships. This refers to the collaboration between healthcare and public health leaders and those working in housing access. On a borough-wide scale, the report authors said stakeholders and community partners should use data to flag population health issues early and then make data-informed decisions about how housing intervention can address those health issues.
Finally, the authors highlighted a collective health and housing policy, regulation, and funding action. In other words, efforts to address health through housing need to culminate in a multi-stakeholder effort to streamline housing intervention.
“A working group of stakeholders and policymakers would be well positioned to scale population health strategies through health and housing policy adjustments and funding flexibility, with ease of access to services and health outcomes as core performance metrics,” the report authors explained. “While regulatory reform would achieve scale more quickly, even small wins in this area could generate improvement in health outcomes and government return on investment.”
Notably, this report leverages information collected prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the authors pointed out. However, the pandemic has done nothing but further highlight the importance for community-wide housing interventions targeted to improve population health.
Individuals living in close living quarters, like those in community housing, homeless shelters, or who simply have numerous roommates, have been at higher risk for COVID-19 infection.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus does not discount the report’s findings; instead, it amplifies them. Creating sustainable housing access will be critical to tamping down on COVID-19 spread.
An in order to permanent the strides in housing security made since the virus outbreak, leveraging the principles outlined in this framework will be key, according to UHF president Anthony Shih, MD.
“Existing collaborations in New York City between health care and community service organizations have proven critical for mitigating the impact of the COVID pandemic in the short term,” Shih said in a statement. “This framework maps pathways for collaboration between health, housing, and other sectors, which can drive innovation, inform policy, and help define the future of health and housing in New York.”
Source: PatientEngagement HIT