Colorado Health Institute report connects housing and health

The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) recently released a report detailing the relationship between housing and health. The report finds that affordability, stability, quality, and accessibility of housing all play a role in individual and community health. 

Stable housing is linked to many of the key social determinants of health. CHI explains that housing stability is closely related to educational attainment, employment opportunities, and a healthy lifestyle. Housing is directly related to health as a result of these connections. 

Over the past decade, affordability in the state has decreased rapidly. The number of viable housing options has also decreased in recent years. And, more than one-third of Coloradans do not have stable, viable housing. 

 “The average Colorado home price increased 77 percent in the past decade, but the state’s median income went up just 4.5 percent,” the report finds. 

Fifty-four percent of Coloradans forgo health care as a result of the high cost of housing as well. Thirty-eight percent of Coloradans forgo care while sick, forty-two percent chose not to seek an annual check up, and thirty-five percent stopped consuming over the counter medication due to cost. 

Housing accessibility directly impacts health as well. The CHI report finds that less than 1% of Colorado homes are accessible for those with disabilities. Accessibility of transportation is also related to housing, and health care. In 2017, for example, 300,000 Coloradans were unable to attend a medical appointment due to a lack of transportation. 

Similarly, the quality of housing has an impact on health. Environmental factors are a key part of this relationship.

“Tobacco smoke, asbestos, and pollutants from heating and cooking with gas can cause respiratory problems…And 9 percent of Colorado children have asthma, which can be triggered by mold, household pollutants, or pests, like cockroaches or rodents.52 In 2016 alone, asthma accounted for more than 16,800 emergency department visits and 2,400 hospitalizations in Colorado,” the report finds. 

At the same time, the report also finds that health can impact the quality of housing. High medical costs can come in direct conflict with housing costs, forcing consumers to choose between one or the other. 

CHI explains that the policies currently in place could be amended to create additional opportunities for housing and health security in the state. 

“Policy decisions have created the current barriers to housing security that exist for some Coloradans, and Colorado can enact policies to remove these barriers. The opportunity is here to create a system that ensures all Coloradans can benefit from affordable, high-quality, secure housing.”