WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-California) and the nonprofit Lift to Rise hosted representatives from leading national healthcare, housing, and philanthropic organizations on Capitol Hill on Sept. 21 for a critical conversation on improving federal policy around the intersection of housing and health, a key first step to developing future policy action around housing as a central social determinant of health.
Social determinants of health, as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services, are the conditions in which people are born, live, work, play, worship, and age. They play a significant role in people’s health and well-being. In fact, many experts agree that social determinants contribute more to promoting good health than medical interventions.
The conversation focused on key policy considerations for connecting federal, state, and local housing and health resources and programs that would result in both increased affordable housing production and improved health outcomes.
“As a physician I have cared for many patients in the emergency room who have suffered exacerbations of disease due to inadequate shelter. Adequate housing is an important social determinant of health,” Dr. Ruiz said. “I am honored to have co-hosted the advocacy roundtable with Lift to Rise and many experts representing organizations from my district and across the nation. I look forward to continue working together to increase affordable and adequate housing in order to improve the health and lives of my constituents and all Americans.”
Ruiz and Lift to Rise are working to develop legislation that recognizes the influence housing has on other social determinants of health and supports growing the supply of quality, affordable housing for people who need it and can’t afford it. Thursday’s roundtable was an opportunity to gather ideas that could shape this future action.
“The pandemic showed us that housing is the central social determinant of health and determines the trajectory of opportunity for us all,” said Heather Vaikona, CEO of Lift to Rise, which leads a cross-sector affordable housing initiative in Southern California’s Coachella Valley. “At the roundtable, thought leaders and grassroots advocates from across the country shared how we can take policy actions to increase housing opportunity because our individual and collective health depend on it.”
Monica Valdes Lupi, Managing Director of the Kresge Foundation’s Health Program, said: “At the Kresge Foundation, we invest in innovative community-led strategies that connect housing and health sectors to drive change, since we know that these have been proven to improve health and decrease health care costs. That’s why we’re grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Roundtable on Housing as a Social Determinant of Heath.”
Joining Representative Ruiz and Lift to Rise for the event were local stakeholders from the Congressman’s district and national thought leaders from the following organizations: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Build Healthy Places Network, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s Center for Community Investment, Communities for a New California (CNF) Education Fund, ICF International, the Kresge Foundation, the Low Income Investment Fund, NVG, Public Health Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Riverside County Department of Housing and Workforce Solutions, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, and UnitedHealth Group.