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Conference Speakers Say Housing is Key to Individual and Public Health

6/21/2011 9:20:19 PM

Tags: Healthy Housing Conference, housing as social justice issue, Dr. Georges Benjamin, Home Depot Foundation, George Wacker, homeless veterans, housing homeless veterans, Ellen Tohn, Tohn Environmental, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailAt the Healthy Homes Conference in Denver today, I heard Home Depot Foundation CEO Fred Wacker say that the nonprofit sector is so far ahead of the profit sector in addressing healthy homes that it’s embarrassing for the profit sector.

I heard Ellen Tohn of Tohn Environmental Strategies say that the government will fund energy-efficiency updates in 1 million homes in the next year, making it paramount that energy workers understand healthy home principles. Poorly done house tightening could trap residents inside with contaminants and create hazards.

And I was pleased to hear health care pioneer Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, put quality housing in the same arena as diet, exercise and public policy as a key to achieving individual health. “If you don’t have healthy housing, I don’t care how many times you push away from the table or how far you walk, you’re not going to be healthy,” he said.

Dr. Benjamin shared a report on healthy housing requirements from the March 1938 American Journal of Public Health, proving that the more things change the more they stay the same. Back then, a healthy home was defined as one that supported fundamental physiological and psychological needs (light, space, quiet) and kept occupants safe from contagion and injury. That remains so today, and Dr. Benjamin asserted that giving everyone access to those basics is a matter of social justice.

Wacker said the Home Depot Foundation is doing its part to address that for veterans, who make up 8 percent of the population but account for 16 percent of the homeless. Last year more than 20,000 military families, many on active duty, faced foreclosure. Committed to “making sure every veteran has a place to call home,” the Home Depot Foundation will invest more than $30 million over the next three years to repair and renovate homes for military veterans to live in. 

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