Culturally Sensitive Housing Can Lessen Health Disparities among Diverse Residents

Culturally Sensitive Housing Can Lessen Health Disparities among Diverse Residents
Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Aditi Hirani, Cathy Jordan
Housing and Society
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Healthy housing is more than just a stable, safe, and clean dwelling. The definition of healthy housing should include “both the physical dimensions of housing and the efforts by household members to craft a [culturally] preferred way to living,” according to an article by Tasoulla Hadjiyanni and her colleagues in Housing and Society. Their paper, part of a larger project, examines how housing that accounts for cultural diversity can lessen health disparities among residents, addressing the “disproportionate poor health outcomes” experienced by “refugees, immigrants, and people of color.” The authors interviewed 21 practitioners associated with affordable housing from public, private, and nonprofit organizations and academic institutions in Minnesota in 2010 and 2011. Using qualitative evidence from discussions with these professionals, the authors suggest a procedure to create “culturally sensitive housing.” These suggestions include recognizing cultural differences, realizing the perspectives of other cultural groups, developing ways to accommodate cultural differences, and working with different stakeholders to construct such housing. By expanding the definition of healthy housing, housing stakeholders can better address the needs of all the residents of a community, which can decrease health disparities among diverse cultural groups.

Key findings:

  • Diverse housing options in a region benefit everyone. Residents have unique ways of living, (e.g., cooking differently) that require different housing stock for different people.
  • Housing providers must consider the needs of its residents to account for “health-related design features.” For instance, neighborhood meetings can allow developers to make modifications to homes as feedback allows them to better understand the needs of residents.
  • Physical spaces in homes must be flexible to accommodate diverse ways of living. For example, bedrooms need to accommodate multiple people for families with many children to avoid overcrowding.
  • Healthy spaces must be promoted through demonstration projects and collaboration between housing stakeholders involved in development.