The deadliest outbreak of hepatitis A in the country flaring in southern California stems from a confluence of factors, from a lack of affordable housing and accessible health care to a shortage of public restrooms. But could other cities across the country face a similar crisis?
In Washington, D.C., outdoor retailer REI recently launched a new flagship store in the eastern part of the nation’s capital. But just outside the store, in a gentrifying neighborhood about one mile north of the U.S. Capitol, a tent city has sprung up “along the underpasses squeezed between some of the newest money in town,” according to local columnist Petula Dvorak. Continue reading
Photo: Courtesy of the San Diego Union TribuneTent “cities” have swelled in southern California, creating crowded and unsanitary conditions.
Along the southern California coastline, surging development has triggered a housing boom that has also come at a heavy price for health.
Numerous outlets have been tracking what U.S. health officials say is the deadliest outbreak of hepatitis A in the country, according to The Washington Post. State officials have declared an emergency, and officials are scrambling to contain the spread of infection in one of the country’s most densely populated areas.
Homeless people in their 50s have more geriatric conditions than those who are decades older but have a roof over their heads, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
Because of prolonged exposure to stress, those living in poverty often experience premature aging, also known as weathering. Weathering can dramatically impact those without stable housing, causing individuals to prematurely age by 10 to 20 years beyond their chronological age. In addition to premature aging, the stress of homelessness affects morbidity and mortality. Continue reading
“For many patients, a prescription for housing or food is the most powerful one that a physician could write, with health effects far exceeding those of most medications.”
– from Housing as Health Care — New York’s Boundary-Crossing Experiment
Image by nouspique via flickr.
Housing First is a health care strategy based on the idea that secure, affordable housing is a necessary first step to care effectively for homeless people with chronic mental health and substance abuse problems. There is some evidence that this approach may, in some circumstances, even save taxpayers money (but probably not as much as is often claimed).
In a much-cited 2009 study in Seattle, researchers analyzed medical and law enforcement costs for 91 people given supportive housing and found that costs dropped to about half the level seen among 35 comparable homeless people on a waiting list.
Cities from coast to coast are ramping up efforts to provide housing as a health care solution. Reporters who keep an eye on this trend won’t be lacking for stories to pursue. There’s a lot of money at stake, for one thing. And, despite all the potential for helping people, it’s questionable whether all these projects will really save money, especially if they house more than just the heaviest repeat users of emergency rooms and jail cells. Other aspects of the Housing First model are bound to stir controversy (more on this below). Continue reading
With much of the country feeling the “polar vortex” and some of the coldest temperatures seen in 20 years in some places, reporters may be called upon to write about health – and death – in cold weather.
Hypothermia is the unintentional lowering of the body’s core temperature below 95º F. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common risk factors for hypothermia include exposure to cold while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, altered mental status and immersion in cold water. Other factors can include advanced age, chronic medical conditions, substance abuse and homelessness.
The CDC has some winter weather health and safety tips to help people protect themselves from frostbite, hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, chainsaw mishaps and more. Here are some other general resources: Continue reading