April 14, 2010 – (BRONX, NY) – Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University has been awarded $750,000 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study the impact of housing on the cardiovascular health of Latinos in the Bronx. By examining the link between the type of housing local residents live in and their health, researchers hope to influence housing policy and help reduce racial and ethnic disparities.
Earle Chambers, Ph.D. “While many researchers are identifying ways to address the health problems of the disadvantaged at the individual level – by encouraging physical activity or making healthy food choices, for example – we are focusing on what changes can be made at a policy or structural level,” said Earle Chambers, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and assistant professor of family and social medicine and of epidemiology & population health at Einstein. “We hope to influence circumstances so that individuals are in a position to more easily make healthier choices.”
Dr. Chambers will work in collaboration with Emily Rosenbaum, Ph.D., professor of sociology at Fordham University. The three-year study will examine the relationship between housing status and health of nearly 1,000 individuals. Researchers will determine if those who live in mixed income housing by way of government housing vouchers have lower cardiovascular risk than those who live in either government-subsidized public housing developments or in unsubsidized housing.
Previous research has shown that living in disadvantaged living conditions leads to poorer cardiovascular health. Neighborhoods that lack safe and accessible places to be physically active outdoors and access to healthy food options, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, can contribute to unhealthy behaviors that lead to heart disease. These living environments can also be dangerous and therefore stressful for residents, which further promotes unhealthy physical responses and behaviors.
“While many researchers are identifying ways to address the health problems of the disadvantaged at the individual level – by encouraging physical activity or making healthy food choices, for example – we are focusing on what changes can be made at a policy or structural level.”
-- Earle Chambers, Ph.D. The study will identify Latino adults, aged 18 to 64, who live in the West and South Bronx and are eligible for low income housing assistance. The participants will fall into three groups: those who live in Section 8 subsidized housing environments, those living in government subsidized public housing developments, and those in unsubsidized housing. Housing vouchers allow low or very low income individuals or families to live in privately owned housing in mixed-income neighborhoods. Government subsidized housing developments lead to a high concentration of low and very low income households in an area. Those in unsubsidized housing, while eligible for assistance, do not receive it for a variety of reasons and thus pay market price for their housing.
Researchers will administer a survey to participants who qualify for housing assistance during in-home visits. They will collect information on physical activity and diet, and a broad range of socio-demographic and health information. They will also measure weight, height, and waist circumference. Aspects of neighborhood environments will be measured using census and administrative data, and data obtained from commercial services. The questionnaires will also ask about participants’ stress to see if elevated levels are seen in neighborhoods designated hazardous, or dangerous, as determined by city measures.
Einstein’s grant is one of 13, totaling nearly $6 million, that the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation distributed to researchers to explore how housing impacts children, families, and communities. The grants will be used to produce a base of empirical evidence to show how housing affects children’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development and how housing choices shape the economic, physical, and emotional well-being of adults.