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New approaches to housing seen as a key to improving community health

Health, Housing

A new paper by two Kresge Foundation health and housing experts makes the case that philanthropy should rethink its approaches to low-income housing and re-establish a long-recognized link between housing and community health, especially for low-income, urban populations.

“Philanthropy can play a key role in reconnecting the sectors through its capacity to build the evidence base, change the discourse about housing, foster policy change and promote innovation,” write David Fukuzawa and Fred Karnas in “Reconnecting Health and Housing: Philanthropy’s New Opportunity,” published in the journal Environmental Justice.

Fukuzawa is managing director of Kresge’s Health Program. Karnas is a senior fellow at the foundation working on issues at the intersection of housing, health and human services and the needs of vulnerable populations.

Beyond closing the coverage gap for some 30 million uninsured Americans, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seeks to foster reforms that create new opportunities to reconnect the housing and health sectors, say Fukuzawa and Karnas, creating “a new framework that envisions housing as a platform for improving quality of life.”

That framework would include using housing as a portal for delivering health services to residents, remediating substandard housing to eliminate health hazards such as lead-based paint, and developing neighborhoods that promote community health and opportunity with affordable housing as the foundation.

“Increasingly, health system leaders and experts recognize that significant savings will not come from medicine alone, but through addressing the social and environmental factors that lead to unhealthy lives and behaviors,” say Fukuzawa and Karnas.

Kresge’s Health Program seeks to help communities overcome the economic and social disadvantages that contribute to poor health so that all Americans have the chance to enjoy productive, self-determined lives.

View the paper.

View the online edition of Environmental Justice.