Study highlights relationship between housing and the health of children with medical complexity

1. Interviews of caregivers of children with medical complexity indicated that housing outcomes reflected a tradeoff between families’ housing needs and the possibilities available to them.

2. Caregivers reported that housing impacted the health of both the caregiver and child.

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)

Study Rundown: Caregivers of children with medical complexity (CMC) often experience financial, social, and emotional stress. Families may additionally experience housing difficulties related to the care of their child. This study aimed to explore families’ experiences and perceptions of housing needs and its relationship to their child’s complex health needs. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with caregivers and focused on the housing experience, the impact of the child’s health on housing preferences, and housing supports. Caregivers indicated that the child’s illness impacted housing needs, as well as the caregiver’s income, home ownership status, and ability to work, which subsequently impacted housing outcomes. Housing additionally affected the health of both the child and caregiver. Despite the small sample size and single center design, the current study provides insight into the unique experiences of families seeking optimal housing who have a child with medical complexity. Public health initiatives focusing on providing assistance to families with CMC is one potential avenue to address issues raised by this study.

Click to read the study in PEDIATRICS

Relevant Reading: The daunting problem of medical complexity and housing instability

In-Depth [survey]: Qualitative, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with 20 caregivers (18 mothers, 2 fathers) of CMC at a tertiary pediatric health sciences center in Canada between 2017-2020. Overall, 2 major themes emerged from the surveys. The first theme focused on the impact of health on housing. Specifically, caregivers had preferences for the layout and location of the house due to the child’s medical needs, which were limited by factors such as finances, rental homes, and parental time off work. As a result, housing outcomes were a trade-off between preferences and possibilities. The second theme focused on the impact of housing on the health of both caregiver and child. Caregivers described mental and physical health consequences, including stress, feelings of guilt regarding the housing situation, and musculoskeletal strain of carrying the child due to inaccessible housing. A lack of physical space, poor air quality and crowding were described as factors affecting the child’s health.

Image: PD

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