There's No Place Like Home: Reshaping Community Interventions and Policies to Eliminate Environmental Hazards and Improve Population Health for Low-Income and Minority Communities

52 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2017 Last revised: 29 Sep 2017

See all articles by Emily A. Benfer

Emily A. Benfer

Columbia Law School

Allyson Gold

University of Alabama - School of Law

Date Written: July 20, 2017

Abstract

Substandard housing and environmental conditions threaten the health and well-being of individuals residing throughout the United States. Empirical evidence on the relationship between housing and health has increased exponentially. However, despite the growth in research, residents continue to be exposed to environmental health hazards. Minorities and people in poverty are exposed to environmental health hazards at a disproportionately high rate. Hazards, such as lead, mold, pest infestation, radon, and carbon monoxide, among others, threaten individual safety and health and limit one’s ability to access opportunity in society. Moreover, the effects of exposure can be far-reaching. Common approaches to healthy communities and homes fail to protect residents from exposure to environmental health hazards. Federal, state, and local jurisdictions often rely on education and research, regulation of real estate transactions, heightened standards for special populations, enactment of minimum habitability standards, hazard mitigation, and community-level interventions. Taken together, these approaches are fragmented, reactive rather than preventive, and under-resourced. As a result, they are inadequate to prevent negative health consequences that accrue to residents. This article analyzes the relationship between policies governing healthy communities and housing and health outcomes for residents. Part I discusses how environmental and housing conditions affect community and individual health, with a particular focus on conditions that cause lead poisoning, asthma and respiratory distress, and cancer. Part II examines current federal, state, and local approaches to healthy housing policy, including interventions directed at individual housing units as well as the community at-large. This part also analyzes the limitations of these policies that prevent residents from attaining good health. Part III offers recommendations to improve health outcomes for individuals and communities.

Keywords: social determinants of health, asthma, lead poisoning, cancer, healthy homes, health communities, health justice, health in all policies, environmental justice, housing, special education

Suggested Citation

Benfer, Emily and Gold, Allyson, There's No Place Like Home: Reshaping Community Interventions and Policies to Eliminate Environmental Hazards and Improve Population Health for Low-Income and Minority Communities (July 20, 2017). Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2017; U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3006099. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3006099

Emily Benfer (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10009

Allyson Gold

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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