There is an emerging understanding that the neighborhood and home our children grow up in is a powerful determinant of their health. Impoverished children are at high risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, substance abuse, mental illness, and high levels of toxic stress that impair cognitive development. Pediatricians nationwide are emphasizing the importance of addressing childhood poverty and poor living conditions to improve childhood health.
Aside from the incalculable human costs, concentrated poverty results in tremendous social costs, and contributes to rising health care costs.
So it makes sound economic sense that a health insurance company, United Health is now investing in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) projects in opportunity neighborhoods of the Twin Cities. In fact, this is just a start; the firm is investing $150 million to build LIHTC projects in a dozen states with the goal of improving health outcomes and reducing costs
United Health’s investment has already allowed one tenant, Vanessa Smith, to reduce the medical costs associated with her bipolar disorder and nerve pain, simply by affording her affordable rent and housing stability in a good neighborhood.
And we are seeing this prescription work here in Baltimore. A piece by Philip Tegeler and and Salimah Hankins describes how the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program treated Sabrina Oliver’s depression and her daughter’s severe asthma.
Affordable housing and housing vouchers in safe and healthy neighborhoods —- concrete steps we can take to reduce health disparities and reduce high health care costs.
You can watch the full interview with Sabrina Oliver here.
Read another report, by Philip Tegeler and Kami Krcuckenber, which examines the clinical, legal, and programmatic issues that need to be addressed as we work to treat children with chronic health problems through affordable housing in safe, healthy neighborhoods.