June Summit Recap: Housing is Health

Community members and business leaders gathered at the June 21 Transform Westside Summit centered around the topic “Housing is Health.” The Summit emphasized the interconnection between housing stability and overall health outcomes, and featured insightful discussions from key representatives of Kaiser Permanente, including Stefanie Hurst, Senior Director of Community Health, and Dr. Sylvia Morris, MD, MPH, Hospitalist and Area Physician Market Lead.

John Ahmann, Westside Future Fund President and CEO, welcomed attendees and Ebony Ford, Director of Community Building & Engagement, Quest Community Development Corporation, led connection and community building. Les Canty, Westside Outreach Coordinator, CHRIS 180, gave the devotion. 

Key Moments from the Conversation

Stefanie Hurst, who joined Kaiser Permanente after nearly a decade at Grady Health System, highlighted the importance of community health initiatives. Kaiser Permanente operates as a national health plan with a substantial local impact, particularly in Georgia. Stefanie detailed how 75% of their investments align with national pillars, while 25% focus on unique market needs, ensuring that community investments meet local health priorities. Last year, Kaiser Permanente allocated $53 million to the community, with $5 million directed towards local grants supporting housing, food as medicine, economic opportunities, mental health, and maternal health.

Kaiser’s Integrated Approach to Healthcare

Dr. Sylvia Morris, an internist with Kaiser Permanente Georgia, elaborated on Kaiser’s unique integrated delivery network. This approach contrasts with the traditional fee-for-service model by prioritizing overall wellness and preventive care. Kaiser Permanente’s model ensures that patients receive comprehensive care, including physician consultations, prescriptions, imaging, and specialist services, all under one roof. This integrated model supports the goal of maintaining members’ health rather than just treating illnesses.

Kaiser’s Community Health Work in Georgia

Hurst discussed Kaiser Permanente’s significant investments in the Westside, partnering with organizations like Chris 180 and the Westside Future Fund. Their housing investments target three key areas:

  1. Prevention of Homelessness: Through preservation and production of affordable housing.
  2. Response to Homelessness: Providing support and resources to those experiencing homelessness.
  3. Medical Respite Care: Offering temporary housing for individuals in medical crises.

Housing as a Social Determinant of Health

Dr. Morris emphasized the strong link between housing stability and health outcomes. Housing is not just a basic need but a fundamental determinant of health. Without stable housing, individuals struggle to focus on preventive care and managing chronic conditions. For instance, individuals without stable housing often face challenges like poor nutrition, lack of access to healthcare, and mental health issues.

Addressing Health Inequities through Housing

Dr. Morris highlighted that zip codes often determine life expectancy and prevalence of chronic diseases. Poor housing conditions, such as mold and lack of air conditioning, directly impact health. Access to quality housing and healthcare varies significantly across different neighborhoods, leading to health disparities.

Medical-Legal Partnerships

Hurst introduced the concept of medical-legal partnerships, an innovative approach Kaiser Permanente is adopting. This partnership involves healthcare leaders and the legal community working together to address issues like mold remediation, inappropriate evictions, and providing resources for asthma management in homes. These efforts aim to improve living conditions and, consequently, health outcomes.

The Impact of Trauma on Health

Dr. Morris discussed how trauma and housing instability affect mental health and overall well-being. She shared experiences from her practice, illustrating how unstable housing conditions complicate the management of chronic diseases and mental health issues. Kaiser Permanente’s approach emphasizes understanding the community context and addressing the root causes of health inequities.

Community Engagement and Collective Action

The Summit concluded with a call to action for community engagement and collective responsibility. Addressing housing and health disparities requires a united effort to support the most vulnerable populations. The discussions underscored the importance of viewing housing as a fundamental component of health and the need for collaborative efforts to create healthier communities.

Miss the event? Watch the full Transform Westside Summit on YouTube.