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Championing the Expansion of Equitable Housing Resources in Chicago

Mitigating Housing Insecurity Health Risks For Pregnant Persons And Newborns In Chicago’s Coordinated Entry System: The Intersection Of Maternal Health And Housing Insecurity

Historic housing discrimination policies and practices have and continue to influence maternal and child health outcomes. Poor housing conditions can result in social, environmental, and health inequalities, disproportionately affecting historically marginalized groups, single-parent families, and women, who are more likely to reside in inadequate housing.

This summer, with support from the P3RC, I completed my Applied Practice Experience (APE) with The Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP). In this blog, I provide a brief overview of my APE experience, summarize current findings on the intersection of maternal health and housing insecurity, describe how the ICAAP mitigates housing insecurity and health risks for pregnant persons and newborns, and outline relevant policy implications and recommendations.

Pregnancy can increase an individual’s risk of becoming homeless, and pregnant persons face significantly greater health risks while unstably housed. Pregnant women on public assistance have an 18% probability of being homeless, compared to a 2% probability among non-pregnant women on public assistance. Unhoused young women are almost five times more likely to become pregnant and far more likely to experience multiple pregnancies than housed young women.

ICAAP is an organization of over 2,000 pediatricians in Illinois dedicated to improving the health and well-being of infants, children, and adolescents. ICAAP advocates on behalf of children, families, and health professionals, develops and provides continuing medical education and resources for pediatric professionals, and collaborates with other organizations on programs and projects that improve the health and well-being of children.

During my internship, I created a grant report for one of ICAAP’s health initiatives, a multi-disciplinary, multi-organizational coalition called the Collaborative on Child Homelessness- Illinois (COCHI).  The grant report helped to mobilize and elevate COCHI’s work to create pathways to stable housing for birthing parents, young children, and families in Chicago through collaboration with healthcare, housing, and early childhood stakeholders. The grant report served as a basis by which to bolster the COCHI leadership team and recruit diverse leaders across Chicago; build and leverage partnerships to support initiatives to increase affordable housing; and create and launch a campaign to raise awareness around the urgency for birth parents to be stably housed.  I also updated a factsheet of local housing organizations that aim to improve health outcomes for pregnant persons, children, and families by increasing capacity and fair access to housing through a deliberate racial equity and justice lens. Some organizations included in the factsheet are New Moms, Primo Center, and The Night Ministry.

Housing cannot be addressed in isolation. One must ensure community safety and economic stability, including institutional policies promoting and enforcing screening in the health care system for substance abuse and intimate partner violence, and providing funding assistance and housing to support pregnant/postpartum women who need to leave violent intimate partners. Social policies, like The Build Back Better Act, which contributes $150 billion for affordable housing, supports the education and employment of women, and provides adequate daycare for working parents and paid family leave, are critical to the safety and security of pregnant persons and their children.

Additional recommendations to address housing disparities: