February 2016
EWSE Webinars

Did you miss an Every Woman Southeast webinar? All of our archived webinars can be found on our website here. Stay tuned for this year's upcoming webinar series!

Improving Housing Improves Health 

Improving Housing Can Pay Dividends in Better Health

Living in substandard housing can make existing health problems much worse. In this NPR segment, two mothers tell of their families' struggles to stay healthy in poor housing and their efforts to improve their lot.
Click here to view an infographic that explains the sacrifices that many Americans make to afford housing. 

The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation's Issue Brief on Housing and Health examines the many ways in which housing can influence health. It also discusses promising strategies to ensure that all Americans have healthy homes. The focus is on three important and interrelated aspects of residential housing and their links to health: the physical conditions within homes, conditions in neighborhoods surrounding homes, and housing affordability.

The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is a leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization solely dedicated to establishing healthy, green, and safe homes for families across all income levels through research, education, training, and policy efforts. NCHH serves four core audiences: families and consumers; health, housing, and environmental professionals; foundations and corporations; and researchers.

In 1999, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched its Healthy Homes Initiative to protect children and their families from housing-related health and safety hazards. HUD has developed a new Healthy Homes Strategic plan that lays out the next steps their office will take to advance the healthy homes agenda nationwide.

The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) is the leading housing and community development advocate for the provision of adequate and affordable housing and strong, viable communities for all Americans -- particularly those with low- and moderate-incomes. Their members administer HUD programs such as Public Housing, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, CDBG and HOME.

Led by the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW), the Grand Challenges for Social Work is a groundbreaking initiative to champion social progress powered by science. To end homelessness, this group has issued a call to action for social work researchers and practitioners to harness social work's science and knowledge base; collaborate with individuals, community-based organizations, and professionals from all fields and disciplines; and work together to tackle this and other social problems. 
Social Determinants of Health:
Many of us have heard the phrase 'home is where the heart is.' But not everyone has a safe, clean place to call home. Having a place to live -- and the quality of that housing -- is an often overlooked determinant of health, though its impacts on the well-being of adults and children can be significant

Adequate housing protects individuals and families from harmful exposures and provides them with a sense of privacy, security, stability, and control. In contrast, poor quality and inadequate housing contributes to a number of health problems.

Infectious Diseases
Features of substandard housing, including lack of safe drinking water, absence of hot water for washing, ineffective waste disposal, intrusion by insects and other pests, and inadequate food storage have long been identified as contributors to the spread of infectious diseases. For people without housing, the overcrowding found in shelters also contributes to the spread of infectious diseases, particularly respiratory infections and tuberculosis.

Chronic Diseases
Epidemiological studies have linked substandard housing with an increased risk of chronic illness. Damp, cold, and moldy housing has been associated with asthma and other chronic respiratory symptoms, even after controlling for income, social class, smoking, crowding, and unemployment. Water intrusion is a major contributor to problems with interior dampness, as are overcrowding and inadequate ventilation. Damp houses provide a nurturing environment for mites, roaches, respiratory viruses, and molds, all of which play a role in respiratory disease pathogenesis. Studies have also established associations between damp and moldy housing and recurrent headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting, and sore throats.  

The importance of designing homes to prevent injuries has received long-standing attention, especially with regard to reducing burns and falls. Attributes of substandard housing that increase the risk of injury include exposed heating sources, unprotected upper-story windows and low sill heights, slippery surfaces, breakable window glass in sites with a high likelihood of contact, and poorly designed stairs with inadequate lighting. Building design and materials influence the risk of injury from fires. These hazards are frequently present in temporary accommodations provided to homeless women and young children.

Mental Health
Substandard housing may also adversely affect mental health. Excessive indoor temperature has been linked with irritability and social intolerance. Damp, moldy, and cold indoor conditions may be associated with anxiety and depression. Crowding has been associated with psychological distress, and homelessness and substandard living conditions has been related to behavioral problems among children. Poor housing conditions may also lead to social isolation because occupants are reluctant to invite guests into their homes. And high-rise buildings may inhibit social interaction because they lack common spaces. 

The lack of affordable housing has been linked to inadequate nutrition, especially among children. Relatively expensive housing may force low-income tenants to use more of their resources to obtain shelter, leaving less for other necessities, like food. Fortunately, children from low-income families receiving housing subsidies have shown increased growth compared to children whose families were on a subsidy waiting list, an observation consistent with the idea that subsidies provide a protective effect against childhood malnutrition. 
Meet our EWSE Fellows:
Jenelle Felton

Why am I excited about working with Every Woman Southeast?
It's interesting to network with students outside my major. It's nice to come together with professionals who've been doing preconception health for a long time.

What is my passion?
Women's health is my passion. I want to see changes especially among the African American community. That PBS documentary, Unnatural Causes, changed my life. It opened my eyes. I never thought about it as something specific to my race. People around me were having stillborns and preterm infants. I made my friend watch it, too. So many women in her family had preterm babies. Besides public health, women's health and feminism, I like home design. I look forward to designing my future home.
What pushes my buttons?
I hate being rushed. I like to take my time. It's cliché to say I'm a perfectionist, but I like things to go my way.
More about me...
I graduated in December from East Carolina University. I joke a lot; I like to have fun. My ultimate goal is to be positive. My mother went through breast cancer and it was really hard. I was positive for her, but I wasn't positive for myself. I want my positive energy to affect the people around me. If others get that from me, I feel better. Soccer is my favorite sport. I played basketball, softball and I danced when I was growing up. I like shoes. I have a lot of shoes. I'm a big Nike fan. And I have a dog named Honey who is 11 years old. She is the light of my life! She's a cocker spaniel.
Ask me about...
Preconception health! I will throw that in everything. It is so important. It is beneficial to your overall health -- not just to reproductive health. Preconception health incorporates all aspects of health. That's pretty cool.
New Blog Post!

Diana Hernandez, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Her community-oriented research examines the intersections between housing and neighborhoods, poverty/ equity, and health with a particular emphasis on energy insecurity. In this TEDMED blog, she talks about the importance of including health as a shared value in the housing sector.

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