Abstract: “Improving Neighborhoods: An Innovative Program of Hospital-Community Collaboration”

Although often overlooked as a key factor in health status, stable and affordable housing plays a critical role in protecting children and adolescents. This article examines possibilities as well as challenges in health-oriented housing interventions for children, with particular attention to understanding how the law—and its limits—shape the nature of non-profit housing work. First, the authors discuss the scholarly literature on the relationship between health and housing to consider why healthcare institutions generally and children’s hospitals specifically might enter into the challenging fray of housing advocacy for the poor. They then discuss the history and motivational basis of one initiative undertaken by a children’s hospital to increase housing stock and stability—the Healthy Homes (HH) initiative sponsored by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Focusing on the “nuts and bolts” of such programs, the authors discuss what hospitals must do to actualize such a program. They examine the key mechanisms that the Hospital and its partners have found to be critical to acquiring, building and rehabilitating, and ultimately getting new owners into stable, high-quality homes. They also examine the community relationships and intricacies for the success of the project. The basis for this research includes a series of interviews with key stakeholders, a walking tour of the primary neighborhood impacted by the neighborhood, as well as analysis of HH-related web sites and relevant scholarly literatures. Ultimately, the article examines HH to offer general guidance that other children’s hospitals might use to engage their own programs. Along the way the article catalogs best practices and lessons learned, both within existing legal mechanisms and more informally.

Key Take Away Points

  • There is a close relationship between child health and the development of high-quality, affordable housing stock
  • Children’s hospitals are well-situated for partnering with community organizations to promote housing
  • Successfully implementing a housing development program requires attention to numerous legal and bureaucratic considerations as well as community outreach

Author Biography

Dr. Daniel Skinner is Assistant Professor of Health Policy in the Department of Social Medicine at Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dublin, Ohio. Dr. Skinner’s research interests include health policy and politics, the politics of medicine, rhetoric, and political theory. His research has appeared in journals such as Public Administration Review; Polity; The Review of Politics; Health, Culture & Society; and Politics & Gender. Jenelle Donovan-Lyle is a Senior Specialist in the Government Relations Department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her professional history includes Medicaid policy and legislative work as well as background in children’s health and human services issues. In her current capacity she monitors and advocates on behalf of Nationwide Children's Hospital on state government-level issues. Dr. Kelly Kelleher is Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health in the Colleges of Medicine and Public Health at The Ohio State University, Vice President of Community Health and Services Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Center Director in the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He is a pediatrician and health services researcher focused on improving and measuring the quality of pediatric care for high risk children affected by social determinants of health, violence, neglect, alcohol, drug use or mental disorders. He has been continuously funded by NIH since shortly after completing his training in 1990 and is now the PI on projects from NIMH, AHRQ, and CMS/CMMI. He is involved in strategy development for the Nationwide Children’s Healthy Neighborhood, Healthy Family zone.