A Stable Home Makes Healthier Children

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A recent survey done by Children’s HealthWatch of low-income Metro Boston areas of Massachusetts may provide some key insight into the poor health of children being directly related to a family’s lack of secure housing and strained wallets.

Children’s HealthWatch believes a safe, stable home is important for children’s physical and mental health today, as well as their growth and learning abilities tomorrow.

The survey sampled 6,000 Metro Boston families with children under age four. Many of the circumstances present in this can be related to any inner city, especially Washington, DC.

The District of Columbia has the fifth largest homeless population in the country among large metro areas, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The District’s jobless rate still remains above the national rate meaning less and less people are able to make ends meet which leads to evictions, lack of household energy and more.

The study shows there are serious health impacts to children when families face housing insecurity. When a family struggles to make rent or doesn’t have a permanent residence it copes by doing away with basic necessities such as food, utilities, or much needed healthcare and insurance.

For example, families who face unaffordable housing tend to move around in search of better housing. According to the study, children in families who had moved two or more times in the past year were 59% more likely to have been hospitalized than were children in housing-secure families.

Other families may fall behind on rent payments and some may live in an overcrowded house. According to the data, Boston-area families living in crowded housing are 35% more likely to lack access to enough food for all family members to enjoy active healthy lives and 69% more likely to have children that experience reductions in the quality and/or quantity of meals than are families who have a secure residence.

Research has shown children who suffer from poor nutrition face elevated risk of poor health and a higher risk of developmental delays and hospitalizations.

Conditions like crowding or being behind on rent are often invisible to society but can have drastic effects on child health. Children in families behind on rent were 52% more likely to be at risk for developmental delays compared to those in housing secure families.

Children’s HealthWatch research continues to demonstrate that while family homelessness has dramatic negative child health impacts, housing insecurity short of homelessness also has serious harmful impacts.

The study concludes that stable and affordable housing improves child health and family well-being. The recommendation of this study is for Boston to invest in affordable housing while maintaining emergency shelters and programs to help prevent homelessness. This will reduce health care and education costs now, and in the future. This recommendation can be shared with DC as well. Visit www.childrenshealthwatch.org

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