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Dwelling Disparities: How Poor Housing Leads to Poor Health
Detail: In recent years, environmental health science has broadened the scope of its inquiries, expanding its investigations beyond the effects of single pollutants on individuals to incorporate the entire panorama of external factors that may affect people's health. Consideration of the health impacts of the built environment--the human-modified places where we live, work, play, shop, and more--has been a key element in the ongoing evolution of the field of environmental health.

Substantial scientific evidence gained in the past decade has shown that various aspects of the built environment can have profound, directly measurable effects on both physical and mental health outcomes, particularly adding to the burden of illness among ethnic minority populations and low-income communities. Lack of sidewalks, bike paths, and recreational areas in some communities discourages physical activity and contributes to obesity; in those low-income areas that do have such amenities, the threat of crime keeps many people inside. Income segregation--the practice of housing the poor in discrete areas of a city--has also been linked with obesity and adverse mental health outcomes. Lack of a supermarket in a neighborhood limits residents' access to healthy foods. Dilapidated housing is associated with exposures to lead, asthma triggers (such as mold, moisture, dust mites, and rodents), and mental health stressors such as violence and social isolation.
Date: May 2 2005