Dear Editor: I recently read the article by Abigail Becker published in The Cap Times on the “Housing Forward” plan and I want to amplify the devastating effects our current housing crisis has on health outcomes and mortality in our community.
Housing instability is a medical emergency. As a student nurse, I often work with patients whose basic needs are not being met, including adequate access to food, water and shelter. These patients are limited in being able to engage in health-related behaviors, which can lead to poor health outcomes and increased risk for mortality.
What people don’t realize is that poor health outcomes are not just linked to individual behaviors — they are also heavily affected by social and economic forces like housing instability. Homelessness and overcrowded homes are linked to higher rates of premature death, increased prevalence of infectious diseases, mental disorders and substance misuse. All of this results in higher health care spending and further limits one’s ability to succeed.
I agree with Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway that “it’s important we not wait to act on this.” We must keep the “Housing Forward” plan as a main priority. Affordable housing is one of the first steps to improve health outcomes and it is especially important to target groups at high risk for homelessness such as individuals leaving prisons and psychiatric hospitals, minorities and the child welfare system to improve patient and community health outcomes.
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