Helping patients overcome socioeconomic barriers to better health by building partnerships that improve the community’s health will be critical to hospitals’ and health systems’ ability to continue to carry the promise of help, hope and healing. The good news is how population health strategies and initiatives can change many lives for the better.

 With that in mind, the AHA is offering the field a series of guides on how hospitals and health systems can address the social determinants of health – such as housing, quality education and access to transportation – to improve the environment where people live, work and play.

 We just released the second in the series, “Housing and the Role of Hospitals,” which highlights innovative strategies that hospitals and health systems are using to promote safe and stable housing for vulnerable populations.

Every day, a half-million people find themselves without a stable place to stay, and up to 3.5 million experience this at some point during the year. Homelessness affects men, women and children across the U.S. in big cities and small towns. It affects all races and ethnic groups, but disproportionately people of color.

Compared to people who are stably housed, the homeless are more likely to visit the emergency department, have a longer stay if admitted to the hospital, and be readmitted within 30 days.

There is a sad, cold connection between housing and health care: The sickest and most vulnerable of us can become homeless, and the homeless can become sicker and more vulnerable.

It’s why hospitals and health systems, like those profiled in our new guide, are engaged in innovative programs to address different housing issues in their communities. What they have in common is the goal of improving the well-being of their patients and their community through a focus on housing stability.

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