Children’s HealthWatch, a nonpartisan network of pediatricians, public health researchers, children’s health and policy experts, finds that good health begins at home, not at a doctor’s office. Children’s HealthWatch recently published a brief addressing two questions: What are the health care and education costs of unstable housing? and Which policy solutions could create stable homes for healthier families? Using methods consistent with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Children’s HealthWatch estimates that roughly 10.2 million children and their families living in unstable housing incurred $8 billion in avoidable health care and education costs in 2016. Adjusted for inflation, they project $111 billion will be spent over 10 years, $76.8 billion on maternal health conditions and $34.3 billion on child health conditions. The organization defines having unstable housing as experiencing at least one of the following conditions in the previous year: inability to pay rent or mortgage on time, moving two or more times; or homelessness.
Children’s HealthWatch suggests several policy recommendations to help increase the supply of stable homes, including expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, increasing funding for the Home Investment Partnership Program, and investing in the National Housing Trust Fund. They also recommend providing more resources to help families pay their rent and directing some health care investments to provide access to affordable homes and stabilizing services for families.
This research illuminates how stable affordable housing affects an individual’s health, safety, education, and employment. Children’s HealthWatch has found that providing stable homes and onsite services to populations who cost the health care the most money — primarily, homeless adults with substance abuse disorders and chronic illnesses and seniors living with chronic illnesses — results in dramatic costs savings to the health care system. This research proposes that bringing the same support to families with children will improve community health outcomes, thereby reducing health care and education costs in the short and long term.