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Bridging the gap between health and housing

The National Housing Conference is thrilled to be partnering with NeighborWorks America in a series of sponsored webinars that will explore a number of important topics in housing and policy throughout the year. As an organization that prides itself in convening and collaboration, we know the value of bringing our members to the table to tell us exactly what it is that we don’tknow. The housing landscape is unavoidably vast, and so is the knowledge of our diverse membership. NHC is proud to be working with NeighborWorks America to bring current, on the ground perspectives and information for our most challenging issues.

We kicked off our new partnership on Wednesday with a webinar titled Bridging the Gap Between Health and Housing. The webinar brought together panelists from community development and healthcare organizations to discuss breaking down silos between the two industries in cross-sector partnership and advancing our common objectives. Panelists included Colleen Flynn, Senior Director of National Programs at Build Healthy Places Network; Romi Hall, Director of Healthy Homes and Communities at NeighborWorks America; Andy McMahon, Vice President of Community Engagement & Investment at UnitedHealthcare Community & State; George Sanders, Chief Impact Officer at New Directions Housing Corporation; and moderator Sandra Serna, Vice President of Health and Housing at Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future.

From early childhood development to aging in place, housing and environment are major determinants of the overall health outcomes of residents. This determinant is correlated so strongly that life expectancy varies across different zip codes, and, as highlighted by George Sanders, sometimes even five miles makes a difference of 12 years of life for residents. As intergenerational poverty continues to impact underserved geographies and the full extent of setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic remains unclear, it is vital that healthcare groups and housing groups utilize the tools we have available to address our mutual challenges.

Panelists discussed exactly how to address these challenges by examining the social determinants of health and addressing the social needs of communities through healthcare and housing partnerships. A range of possible investment opportunities that implicate both healthcare providers and housers were discussed, including community grants, colocation of services, land swaps, data sharing agreements and more. Panelists further highlighted some examples of successful projects that fostered community development alongside overall health benefits for residents. In tying affordable housing development to service provision such as no-cost health screenings, dental screenings, motion-sensing fall monitors for elderly residents and providing coordinated behavioral interventions, strategies centered around housing can prevent costly medical bills and stave off major health complications before they ever come to fruition. Andy McMahon highlighted the importance of flexible funding for such investments, including recent updates to some Medicaid programs that allow for housing spending to help keep healthcare customers mentally, physically, and economically healthy.

Comprehensive community development through the methods highlighted by panelists provides an opportunity for health and housing workers to create their own pathways to heathier housing and healthier communities. Collaboration and partnership across sectors, starting with just a phone call, were noted as imperative steps to moving towards more equitable health outcomes for underserved communities.

You can watch the complete webinar on NHC’s YouTube channel. We look forward to upcoming webinars sponsored by our friends at NeighborWorks America and continuing these important conversations with our members.

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