Jul 24 2012

Housing: Sectors Working Together Helps Create Longer, Healthier Lives

Marjorie Paloma Marjorie Paloma, senior adviser and senior program officer for the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

new article in the journal Shelterforce (the publication of the National Housing Institute) by Marjorie Paloma, MPH, senior adviser and senior program officer for the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), looks at collaboration among varied sectors—such as community development and health —to help create healthier housing options for diverse populations. Improvements have ranged from reducing allergens in low-income housing to improve asthma symptoms among children, to a new model of nursing home that groups just a few people in smaller facilities, resulting in better, longer and healthier lives.

Paloma says many of these collaborations are just a few years old and bring together groups such as RWJF and Federal Reserve Banks working on parallel tracks toward improving people’s lives. “These changes to housing are far less about bricks and mortar and more about creating stability for people, especially the most vulnerable,” Paloma says.

In an interview, Paloma pointed to a 2009 article, published in the Community Development  Investment Review, about the Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America and on the factors outside the health sector. “At that point,” says Paloma, “all of us saw that to create healthier, more vibrant communities,  these sectors need to connect and collaborate with each other.”

“What is so exciting about the intersection in this space,” says Paloma, “is the amount of enthusiasm, eagerness and momentum coming from both the health and the community development fields. We’ve collaborated on regional meetings and groups including health, community development, non-profit, and finance are poised to act and are exploring what can be done together.”

Housing, adds Paloma, is a  good example of an area where collaboration can open the door for tackling other social issues that impact peoples’ lives. “What we know is that housing is just one part of a larger puzzle,” Paloma says. “How neighborhoods are designed, for example, can impact jobs, education, transportation and access to healthier foods. We know these factors impact how well and how long a person lives.”

The Shelterforce article points out that the great benefit of collaboration is that it allows for deliberate and forward-thinking partnerships that can benefit communities and the individuals who live in them.  “So many sectors have been in parallel tracks for too long and when we work together, we can achieve much, much more,” Paloma says.

>>Read the Shelterforce article

Tags: Community Development, Family and Social Support, Federal Reserve, Housing, Partnerships, Public and Community Health, Q&A