News Release

Grant will help build links between health care and housing to improve children’s asthma outcomes

HARTFORD (Oct. 2, 2018) – Research indicates that moving to a healthier, “higher-opportunity” neighborhood can improve a family’s health, even without any specific health interventions. Despite this, housing and health care are generally considered to be separate issues, with few systematic links and little coordination.

With a $125,000 grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation, the Open Communities Alliance will work to create better links between housing and health care and set the stage for a two-year pilot program to enable interested families of children with acute asthma to move to healthier neighborhoods.

The “Healthy Housing Vouchers” project aims to use housing policy to improve health outcomes for low-income families and reduce health disparities, tying together clinical and nonclinical factors that affect people’s well-being.

In Connecticut, there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in asthma. According to data from the state Department of Public Health, black children are five times as likely to go to the emergency room for asthma as white children.

Data also indicates that where people live can make a big difference in how long they live. Recently released data shows that the life expectancy in Hartford’s Northeast neighborhood, for example, is 68.9 years – nearly 12 years below the state average of 80.8 years. Just four miles away, in West Hartford Center, the life expectancy is 84.6 years.

In Connecticut, many people of color live in concentrated areas of high poverty and low opportunity. Half of black and Latino Connecticut residents live in census tracts considered “very low opportunity,” meaning they are likely to have high rates of crime, poverty, unemployment, and environmentally triggered physical and mental health conditions, according to an analysis by the Open Communities Alliance.

The Open Communities Alliance project will create a streamlined process for low-income families of children with asthma to help them access affordable housing in healthier communities if they choose. It will include referrals, counseling on the impact of environmental conditions on health, help identifying potential rental locations, and assistance with security deposits, moving expenses, and supportive services as they adapt to a new community. The initial participants in the pilot program will be low-income families who receive government-funded housing vouchers and have children with acute asthma.

The organization hopes the model of partnerships between affordable housing agencies and the health care sector can be replicated in other places. Ultimately, Open Communities Alliance envisions a system in which health care providers could “prescribe” healthy housing vouchers to families of children with environmentally triggered health conditions.

“We know that where you live can make a tremendous difference in your health. Our hope is that this project will help to create systematic linkages between health care and housing to better address the nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes,” said Tiffany Donelson, vice president of program at the Connecticut Health Foundation.

“This project is one part of a strategy to overcome social, economic, and health disparities that have resulted from governmental policies that created segregated housing patterns,” said Erin Boggs, Open Communities Alliance’s executive director. “Through this project, we are seeking to remove barriers faced by low-income families of color who wish to move to affordable housing in healthy, high-opportunity communities to improve their life outcomes. We hope this project will encourage health and housing stakeholders to embrace housing policy solutions as a means of improving health outcomes for low-income families. At the same time, we will continue to work with partners focused on improving health and opportunities in neighborhoods for families who do not wish to move.”

The grant is one of 11 awarded this quarter by the Connecticut Health Foundation, totaling $535,000. The others are:

Community Catalyst, Boston: $60,000
Community Catalyst, a national nonprofit organization, will work with grassroots advocacy organizations in Connecticut to help them advance their work on health equity issues. The assistance Community Catalyst provides will help ensure those most affected by disparities in health care – people of color – will have a voice in efforts to change policies to improve health.

Connecticut Voices for Children, New Haven: $100,000
This funding will support Connecticut Voices for Children’s work to promote policies that advance health equity for children and families. The work will include conducting policy research, producing educational materials and analyses to inform policymakers about issues affecting children and families, bringing together state agencies and advocates through the Covering Connecticut’s Kids and Families Coalition, and participating in state-run councils to represent research-based policy solutions.

Hispanic Health Council, Hartford: $50,000
This funding will support the Hispanic Health Council’s work to improve the health of Connecticut residents through policy changes that address the social determinants of health – nonmedical factors that influence a person’s ability to be healthy. The organization plans to focus on advancing the role of community health workers – who can serve as a bridge between clinical care providers and patients – and ensuring that state residents have access to health care coverage.

DataHaven, New Haven: $55,000
DataHaven will build on its detailed, local-level data on the health and well-being of Connecticut residents to develop reports on health equity indicators at the state and regional levels. This work will allow for analysis of health issues by race and ethnicity, age, gender, ZIP code, and other factors, providing information that policymakers can use to examine and address health needs in the state.

Sanford Cloud Awards for Diverse Advocacy and Policy
These grants are awarded to individuals who have graduated from the foundation’s Academy for Health Equity Advocacy & Leadership. The funding is provided to advance these individuals’ health equity policy projects through the organizations they lead. These grants are awarded in recognition of Sanford Cloud Jr., former foundation board chair and current board member, for his numerous personal and professional contributions to advancing social justice and equity.  

Charter Oak Health Center, Hartford: $50,000 (18 months)
Charter Oak Health Center, a community health center, has a community advisory council made up of patients that serves as the vehicle for patients to weigh in on issues related to the health center. This funding will support Charter Oak’s work to expand its council to more patients and expand the council’s scope, training members in advocacy skills and health policy issues so they can provide a frontline perspective to state legislators, agency officials, local leaders, and others who influence health policy.

Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut, New London: $20,000
The Hispanic Alliance is working to address the inadequacy of the system for providing bilingual and bicultural mental health services to the Latino and Hispanic population in Southeastern Connecticut. This funding will support the organization’s work to establish an estimate of the demand for services and the number of bilingual and bicultural mental health providers needed to meet that demand. The organization will then research the barriers to mental health services and develop recommendations on how to maximize the existing resources while developing new resources for effectively delivering mental health services.

Discretionary grants
President’s discretionary grants are awarded to organizations and institutions that respond to the foundation’s overall mission or priority areas.

Connecticut Office of the State Comptroller, Hartford: $25,000
This funding will support a pilot diabetes prevention program for state Department of Transportation drivers with commercial driver’s licenses. The program is intended to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes among participants by providing them with resources to help make meaningful, lasting lifestyle changes. Diabetes is a costly illness: In the state employee and retiree health plan, diabetes management and treatment represent 18.7 percent of plan spending, and the health care costs for members with diabetes is more than three times higher than for those without diabetes. If successful, this program could serve as proof of concept for other employers or health plans considering covering diabetes-prevention programs for their members.

Hartford Communities That Care, Hartford: $20,000
This grant will support Hartford Communities That Care’s hospital-based violence intervention program, which addresses the trauma needs of shooting victims and their families. The program provides support to the victim and his or her family members in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, as well as mental health services and case management. In addition, the program works to ensure that victims are enrolled in health insurance coverage and connected to primary care and behavioral health care providers.

InterCommunity, East Hartford: $20,000
This funding will support InterCommunity, a community health center, as it creates a transitions clinic to provide medical and behavioral health services to people recently released from incarceration, with a focus on those who are over 50 years old or have at least one chronic medical condition. Research indicates that the risk of death spikes in the first two weeks after a person is released from prison. This grant will fund cultural competency training for the clinic’s community health worker and other staff members.

Middlesex County NAACP Branch, Middletown: $10,000
Middlesex Hospital’s 2016 community health needs assessment identified clear disparities in health outcomes for people of color in Middlesex County. For example, black men were nearly twice as likely as white men to experience avoidable heart disease or stroke, and the rate of HIV was eight times higher for black teens and adults compared to whites, and six times higher among Latinos. This funding will support focus groups with people affected by health disparities to help identify achievable goals and strategies for changing systems to ensure people of color can be as healthy as possible.

For more information, please contact Arielle Levin Becker at or 860-724-1580 x 16.