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Housing stability, quality, safety, and affordability all affect health outcomes, as do physical and social characteristics of neighborhoods. Home ownership can promote social ties and investment in the community, and neighborhoods with higher rates of home ownership tend to have higher levels of neighborhood stability and wealth.
In 2015, 38.9 million American families spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing, earning them the designation of being “cost burdened” and inhibiting their ability to invest in health-generating goods. Low-income families with difficulty paying their rent or mortgage or their utility bills are less likely to have a usual source of medical care and more likely to postpone needed treatment than those who enjoy more-affordable housing. Substandard housing conditions, such as water leaks, poor ventilation, dirty carpets, and pest infestation, have also been associated with poor health outcomes, particularly related to ambulatory sensitive conditions like asthma. A neighborhood’s physical characteristics may promote health by providing safe places for children to play and for adults to exercise that are free from crime, violence and pollution.
At its most extreme, housing instability can lead to episodic or chronic homelessness. People who are chronically homeless face substantially higher morbidity in terms of both physical and mental health and of increased mortality. Being homeless also increases your chances of developing chronic conditions such as COPD, and many homeless individuals also experience mental health concerns. Interventions that provide housing to homeless individuals has been shown to improve health outcomes.
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- Problem Exploration