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  • Karen Routt

Housing as a Healthcare Investment

It Starts with the Roof…

The following podcast (Housing as a Healthcare Investment, Wed, July 27, 2016) and related brief bring to light the issues between housing and healthcare. Dr. Megan Sandel, Principal Investigator with Children’s HealthWatch and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University, makes a strong, almost irrefutable, case for investing in affordable housing as a way to decrease Medicaid costs. Costs linked to unstable housing include increased hospitalizations, ambulatory visits, dental procedures, mental health care for mothers and special education services for children.

Here are some enlightening facts. In 2014 an estimated 671,000 children age four or under had been homeless at some point. Children’s HealthWatch estimated that these children, as a group, experienced 18,600 additional hospitalizations attributable to their experience of homelessness. The top 5% of hospital users—overwhelmingly poor and housing insecure—are estimated to consume 50% of health care costs. Unstable housing among families with children will cost the United States an estimated $111 billion in health and education expenditures over the next ten years, according to new Children’s HealthWatch research.

Housing is the first social determinant when it comes to healthcare. It is the foundation. We need to think of housing as a prescription for healthcare. What can and should be done? The solution involves coordination among many entities, including policy makers, builders, healthcare agencies, and social services. Specifically, ideas include: expanding funding for rental assistance programs, direct investments in affordable housing by healthcare, making housing voucher programs easier for families to navigate, and ensuring access to supportive services for families receiving rental assistance.

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