Washington, D.C.– Federal health and housing policies should be more tightly linked to improve the health outcomes and quality of life for vulnerable Americans, while more efficiently and effectively allocating limited federal resources. That’s the message of a new report released today by the Bipartisan Policy Center.
The report, HUD-HHS Partnerships: A Prescription for Better Health, offers recommendations on ways the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can better collaborate across programs to tackle the health and housing needs of our nation.
- Expanding efforts to collect, match, and share data, specifically connecting local housing and homelessness information with state Medicaid data. HUD and HHS should develop an interagency national data-matching initiative. By better aligning the data on existing health and housing needs and services, HUD and HHS could improve its efforts to connect at-risk populations with available resources.
- Integrating housing and behavioral health resources to provide a better platform for treatment and long-term recovery. Evidence shows that the combination of stable, affordable housing with individualized social services best supports health, particularly for those dealing with severe mental illness and substance use disorders.
- Creating more healthy homes to reduce lead poisoning and asthma triggers. Both HUD and HHS already have separate programs dedicated to preventing these two conditions, but a more targeted, collaborative approach could have a positive effect on population and individual health.
- Improving the coordination of disaster-related housing and health services so communities can better assist residents after a natural disaster. Last year, an estimated 25 million people in the United States were affected by natural disasters and they appear to be growing in both number and severity.
- Aligning existing supportive services and home modification programs to support healthy aging. With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, the need for suitable housing is increasing. Many seniors are currently living with multiple chronic conditions, and 70 percent will, at some point in their lifetimes, be unable to care for themselves without assistance.
“Evidence proves our housing impacts our health. Living in unsafe housing or without housing, increases your risk of getting sick or injured,” said Dr. Anand Parekh, BPC chief medical advisor. “That principle must be reflected in how our federal government works together. Developing new and stronger interagency partnerships between HUD and HHS will go a long way to improving health outcomes and reducing our nation’s healthcare costs.”
“Improving the coordination of discretionary social spending, including investments in safe, stable housing, and housing-based interventions and services, can contribute to decreased hospitalizations, better health outcomes, and a reduction in spending to Medicaid and Medicare,” said Bill Hoagland, BPC senior vice president. “Given the departments’ often overlapping priorities, better coordination of spending makes sense and is essential to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
BPC’s recommendations were developed from interviews with dozens of housing and health experts, HUD and HHS staff and a bipartisan advisory group of former HUD and HHS leaders including Jennifer Ho, a former senior advisor at HUD and former deputy director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Michael Liu, former assistant secretary for public and Indian housing at HUD, Donald Moulds, former acting assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, Vince Ventimiglia, former assistant secretary for legislation, HHS.