Parents with significant housing cost burdens often forego healthcare and skimp on food, causing significant health problems and limiting their children’s learning and early development. This is the finding of a recent research study of Massachusetts families released on January 11 by Children’s HealthWatch, a non-partisan pediatric research center that monitors the impact of economic conditions and public policies on the health and wellbeing of very young children. The researchers propose short- and long-term solutions to increase housing stability, prevent homelessness, and thereby improve children’s health. Their proposals include increasing the number of available state and federal rental vouchers, increased funding for LIHEAP, and increasing the supply of housing affordable to extremely low income households.
HeathWatch focused their study around two questions. First, how are the health and well-being of young children and mothers in families that are behind on rent different from those living in stable housing? And second, how are they different from those living in homeless shelters?
Their findings reveal that families in the Commonwealth that are behind on rent are more likely than families with stable housing to compromise living expenses to pay medical bills and vice versa, have greater food insecurities, and report more cases of depression. They are also more likely to participate in non-housing federal assistance programs
Physical, social, and educational deficiencies are also more prevalent in the children of unstably housed families. Homeless families more frequently reported sacrificing health care for household expenses and household expenses for medical bills than families having rental payment issues. At the same time, health conditions are similar between the two groups and reports of depression were actually lower for families living in shelters.
For more information on the Children’s HealthWatch study and the effects of housing cost burdens on children’s health visit http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/upload/resource/behindcloseddoors_report_jan11.pdf