Updated Legislative Dashboards Include ‘Housing Security’ Metrics

VHHA’s Community Health Legislative Dashboards, which track key health care metrics in localities corresponding to the Commonwealth’s 100 House of Delegates and 40 state Senate districts, have recently been updated online. A previous Research Corner column introduced “food security” as a new metric to provide a more complete picture of community health. This week’s Research Corner column highlights another important determinant of health that has been incorporated into the interactive dashboard tool online: housing security. The relationship between housing security and health outcomes is not new. As far back as the 19th century, public health officials focused efforts on addressing crowded and poorly sanitized residences as a means to reduce infectious diseases.1 Good health largely depends on having access to homes that are safe and free from physical hazards. Adequate housing provides people with a sense of privacy, security, stability, and safety. In contrast, poor housing conditions are associated with a wide range of health conditions including respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental health issues. Each year in this country, 13.5 million non-fatal injuries occur in and around the home.2 The importance of housing security on overall health is a key reason for the inclusion of a “Severe Housing Problems” metric in the updated VHHA Community Health Legislative Dashboards. The online tool’s health indicators section now includes rates and rankings for social determinants of health alongside traditional health indicators such as rates for obesity and heart disease mortality. Severe Housing Problems is defined as the percentage of households with at least one or more of the following housing problems: housing unit lacks complete kitchen facilities; housing unit lacks complete plumbing facilities; household is severely overcrowded;3 or household is severely cost-burdened.4 In Virginia, 467,140 households (15 percent) have a severe housing problem, according to the latest data. The chart below identifies Virginia localities situated above, and below, the median percentage of households with severe housing problems. Advocacy and support for policies that ensure access to affordable and safe housing is one way to improve public health in Virginia. (3/2)

1 National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447157/
2 National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15782447
3 Severe overcrowding is defined as more than 1.5 persons per room
4 Severe cost burden is defined as monthly housing costs (including utilities) that exceed 50% of monthly income