Presentation: Applying an Equity Lens to Healthy Housing Policy

Speaker: Kari Lyons-Eubanks


An essential step to policy review, advocacy and change is framing the issues being addressed and creating common definitions. Multnomah County Health Department applied an equity lens to a state and local housing policies to create a policy solution that addresses root causes of health inequities, specifically the unequal burden of asthma. This workshop will define policy, types of advocacy; discuss an equity lens, and will highlight steps to follow to create equitable healthy housing policies.


"At Multnomah County Environmental Health Services in Portland Oregon, reducing the unequal burden of asthma on poor children and children of color and improving the indoor air quality, habitability and stability of their housing is at the core of our Healthy Homes work. We began building our Healthy Homes foundation in 2001 with a community needs assessment, and responded to the needs of the community by offering health education workshops and developing a Healthy Homes asthma nurse home visit program. In 2007, we coordinated a Healthy Homes Summit, from which emerged a series of policy recommendations, including a call for stronger housing codes and changes to the state health plan to sustain home-based asthma interventions. We have worked to develop strategic alliances with local, state and national partners with two desired outcomes:

         Improve the connection between health and housing

         Educate local and state policymakers on asthma and advocate for policies that eliminate health disparities.


Within Multnomah County, we connected with two cities - Gresham and Portland - in an evaluation process of their housing inspection programs. Through extensive work groups, our team influenced changes in housing codes to reflect environmental health conditions that negatively impact health, such as moisture conditions that create mold which exacerbates asthma. For example, a change in the housing code to set relative humidity indexes as guidelines to citing mold remediation to landlords. At the state level, our team built strategic alliances by educating local policymakers and legislators about our healthy homes project individually, and hosted asthma briefings for the House and Senate in the Oregon Legislature with families and children testifying to the success of home-based asthma care programs. We are currently working closely with the Oregon Division of Medical Assistance Programs to create a Targeted Case Management group that will allow us to bill managed care plans for a portion of the services in our Healthy Homes Asthma program with a start date of July 1, 2010. Our Healthy Housing Policy Change toolkit will highlight the challenges and successes of our journey, offering lessons learned and key ingredients to developing successful policies."



Learning Objectives:

At the end of this Lecture Hall presentation, attendees will be able to:

1.       Define policy and policy advocacy and better understand their role in different types of policy advocacy related to substandard housing.

2.       Define a health equity lens, how it works, and how to apply it to local and state policies.

3.       Apply eight key steps to creating healthy housing policy to a local policy.