You probably think about healthy food, medical care and behaviors such as smoking or lack of exercise as factors that impact our health. But a new study that ranks the health of people in every county in New York finds another factor might be even more significant.
Aliana Havrilla is with County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, who conducted the study. She found cost of housing can severely impact health.
“Opportunities for better health diminish when most of a family’s paycheck goes to housing, leaving little money for other necessities, health food, ability to purchase medicine, or secure transportation to and from work and school.”
She adds unstable housing means more moving and homelessness that raise the chances of poor physical and mental health. Havrilla says community leaders have a couple ways to help.
“…looking at the current availability of affordable housing and looking to preserve affordable housing. The other one is connecting families to resources for affordable housing.”
The report encourages communities to find policy and program solutions to improving housing quality and stability, noting the impacts such efforts can have on health. The authos suggest changes that,
“…respond to the specific needs of each community, promote inclusive and connected neighborhoods, reduce displacement, and enable opportunity for better health for all people,” the report says.
SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVING HOUSING AND HEALTH
Make communities more inclusive and connected,
- Inclusive zoning
- Civic engagement in public governance and in community development decisions
- Fair housing laws and enforcement
- Youth leadership programs
- Access to living wage jobs, quality health care, grocery stores, green spaces and parks, and public transportation systems
Facilitate access to resources needed to secure affordable housing, particularly for low- to middle-income families, such as:
- Housing choice vouchers for low- and very low-income households
- Housing trust funds
Address capital resources needed to create and preserve affordable housing, particularly for low- to middle-income families, such as:
- Acquisition, management, and financing of land for affordable housing, like land banks or land trusts
- Tax credits, block grants, and other government subsidies or revenues to advance affordable housing development
- Zoning changes that reduce the cost of housing production
The study, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also points out the role of behaviors – smoking, obesity, activity levels and others – as important in overall health.
Onondaga County has slightly higher smoking and obesity rates than the state average. There are also more people who drink excessively and more alcohol-impaired driving deaths than state averages. The county does have a high rate oe people with medical insurance; only about 5% are without coverage.
Onondaga County ranked right in the middle, 31st out of 62 counties in New York State on the level of healthy behaviors of residents.
The study include numerous other health ranking measures, from number of days in poor mental or physical health, sexually transmitted disease rate, number of teen births, cancer screenings and vaccinations, and others. Havrilla says the intent of the rankings is to inspire people to find ways to improve.
“We all have a role to play in creating healthier communities. Just thinking about what is your role, and who might you partner with to implement strategies and solutions.”
The findings and ideas to improve health are at: CountyHealthRankings.org
Watch what one community did to come together to improve the health of its residents.