Health, housing and COVID-19: public health efforts are vital in reducing gaps, but change can’t stop there

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Simisola Johnson

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Abstract

Marc Lalonde’s insights on the social determinants of health – the conditions in which people live, work and play” – have drawn major attention to housing over the decades, inspiring a wide range of policy decisions that has impacted the way we live today. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreaks in historically disadvantaged populations (e.g. black/ethnic, low-income communities etc.) reveal that there is more work to do. According to intervention studies, housing is a linking factor between “upstream” socioeconomic determinants and “downstream” interventions that help reduce health disparities. For this reason, housing is not separate from public health: housing is public health. As a rise in COVID cases and extended lockdowns continue to overwhelm our country, millions will require access to a safe, healthy and affordable home for protection. But without the help of additional funding and policy reform in the social housing sector, our most disadvantaged populations will continue to bear the brunt throughout this health crisis, and one’s to come.