Local Health Departments Addressing the Social Determinants of Health: A National Survey on the Foreclosure Crisis
2019 | Health Equity
The foreclosure crisis has had more than just financial consequences for families throughout the United States; it has also been linked to negative mental and physical health outcomes and has disproportionately harmed communities of color. What role, then, should local health departments (LHDs) play in addressing social determinants of health, such as housing?
In this article for the journal Health Equity, Katherine Schaff and Lori Dorfman, of PHI's Berkeley Media Studies Group, report that more than a quarter of LHDs engaged in work related to the foreclosure crisis, and 30 percent of those surveyed said that LHDs should work on this issue.
Purpose: To examine local health department (LHD) engagement in addressing the social determinants of health by using the foreclosure crisis as an example.
Methods: National survey of 166 LHD staff on the foreclosure crisis (2006–2014).
Results: About one quarter (28%) of respondents reported that their LHD had engaged in work related to the foreclosure crisis, 7% planned to engage, and 65% did not or were not planning to engage. Views about the role of LHDs in addressing the foreclosure crisis varied: 30% stated that LHDs should work on foreclosure.
Conclusions: A substantial number of respondents reported that their LHD addressed foreclosure, or supported engagement, yet there are divergent perceptions of appropriate LHD roles. LHDs follow a pattern described by the diffusion of innovations theory: Innovative LHDs can share their work on foreclosure and housing, early adopters are poised to act, and others may follow if they have support.