Housing affordability’s role in creating a healthy and thriving Johnson County

August 4-10 marks National Health Center Week. On Sunday, Aug. 3 is Social Determinants Day. In today’s value-based care environment, Health Partnership Clinic is accountable for improving health outcomes and lowering costs. To achieve these goals and succeed in such an environment, we need to better understand our patients to address both their clinical and non-clinical needs and impact the root causes of health, including patients’ health behaviors, health outcomes and health costs.

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people live, work, play and age. They can encompass socioeconomic conditions, environmental conditions, institutional power and social networks. Understanding patients’ social determinants allows us to transform care with integrated services to meet the needs of our patients, address the social determinants of health and demonstrate the value it brings to patients, communities and payers.

Julie BrewerPost written by Julie Brewer, Executive Director, United Community Services of Johnson County

The time has come to re-think how we define a thriving community.

Typically, we focus on economic development, beautification efforts, and quality schools. But are Johnson County communities thriving if an increasing number of residents are being priced out of the opportunity to live here? Are we a thriving and healthy community if one in three community members reported being emotionally upset due to their finances sometimes, usually or always in the past 12 months in the most recent community health needs assessment survey?

In Johnson County, regardless of whether renting or owning, one in four households (25 percent) are cost burdened.

Cost burdened means your housing expenditures are more than 30 percent of your household income. Approximately 36 percent of households in Johnson County are single households or single head of households. In addition to housing costs, medical bills, credit cards, and utilities rounded out the top list of what Johnson County households reported as cost they worry about how to pay.

Social DeterminantsHow does stress impact our health and overall well-being? Approximately one in five community members reported experiencing physical symptoms (upset stomach, headache, etc.) due to their finances sometimes, usually or always in the past 12 months.

Years of public health research indicates that 50 percent of what creates your health outcomes can be attributed to social and economic factors, and your surrounding environment. These are called the social determinants of health.

A community collaborative call the Johnson County Health Equity Network has taken up the challenge to address health equity issues in our community.

Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.

The priority health issue the Johnson County Health Equity Network has identified for our community is housing affordability. The Network’s Leadership Team includes community organizations such, decision-makers, and community members impacted by issues such as housing affordability. The collaboration is being facilitated by United Community Services of Johnson County (UCS) and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.  The Health Partnership Clinic is an important partner in this work and serves on the leadership team.

Since 2014, cost of living for Johnson County residents has increased by double digits.

Single households have seen a 24 percent increase in costs and all other household types have experienced a 15-19 percent increase. Housing costs is a key component of this increase. Since 2006, we have seen the proportion of homes in Johnson County available for purchase under $250,000 go down as the proportion of homes valued above $250,000 increase. Rents have increased by more than 29 percent during this same period.

If these trends continue, will young adults and families be able to live here? Will longtime residents be able to retire here? A thriving community needs a healthy, vibrant workforce for the wide array of jobs that enable a community to function, grow and be a desirable place to call home.

This past June, UCS gathered more than 200 community members to learn more about the Johnson County Health Equity Network and housing affordability needs, concluding with Call to Action opportunities. To learn more visit: https://ucsjoco.org/human-service-summit/

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2017 1-year estimates; Economic Policy Institute, Family Budget Calculator, 2017; Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Estimates, 2017, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment Survey