To help the thousands of Americans who lost their health insurance along with their jobs during the last year, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has opened a special enrollment period for the health insurance Marketplace.
While this is great news for millions of Americans, health insurance is not the only factor in a person’s health. Having access to healthcare and a means to pay for it (health insurance) is only one of the many things that contribute to well-being. There are both physical and social elements that affect a person’s overall health.
The social determinants of health include access to social support, public safety, quality education, job training, culture, transportation, job opportunities, food markets, and safe housing.
Some of the physical determinants of health are access to green spaces, climate, the built environment, safe schools and worksites, good lighting, physical barriers, housing, and exposure to toxins or other physical hazards.
The Centers for Disease Control groups all the elements into five key areas that contribute to individual health. These are education, social and community opportunities, economic stability, health and healthcare, and neighborhood and the built environment. Each of these areas is supported by several fundamental issues that are problematic in many areas of the country, including Arizona.
In its Healthy People 2020 report, the US Department of Health and Human Services lists the key areas and their underlying issues as follows:
- Early Childhood Education and Development
- Enrollment in Higher Education
- High School Graduation
- Language and Literacy
Social and Community
- Civic Participation
- Social Cohesion
- Food Insecurity
- Housing Instability
Health and Health Care
- Access to Health Care
- Access to Primary Care
- Health Literacy
Neighborhood and Built Environment
- Access to Foods that Support Healthy Eating Patterns
- Crime and Violence
- Environmental Conditions
- Quality of Housing
Now, if you are like me, you can see that some elements of health appear in several of these categories. And I am sure you saw that food is listed four separate times. But did you notice the one thing listed more times than food? Since you are still reading this, I am sure you saw that HOUSING is listed the most times as a catalyst to health. And safe housing, my friends, is what we do. Over the last 30 years, Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun has repaired 5,884 homes. That sounds like a lot, but there is still so much to be done to realize our vision of a safe and healthy home for everyone.
Fast Fact: 30 million homes in the US have serious health and safety issues according to a 2019 report by the Center for American Progress. Also in 2019, the US Census Bureau reported there were just under 140 million homes. Simple math tells us those numbers show nearly 22% of the housing stock in our country is substandard. Here in Arizona, about 18% of families are burdened by sub-standard housing. That means more than a million of our neighbors live in homes that are hazardous. This statistic saddens me and makes me angry. I hope you also find these statistics disturbing and feel strongly enough to join us in our efforts and become a ReBuilder.
Together we can safeguard our veterans, grandparents, and children with safe and healthy homes.