For good health outcomes, we need good housing incomes

Originally published on The Boston Globe.

As primary care physicians, we are accustomed to receiving hard news from our patients. A recent message came in the form of a text message, a string of crying emojis, from a patient who had already suffered so much Jean (name changed for privacy) though only in her mid-30s, has suffered from uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, an early heart attack, and a long history of trauma, and was recently diagnosed with HIV. Though Jean has made great strides in her health — intensive therapy for her trauma, new medication regimens for her diabetes, high blood pressure, and now HIV — stable housing was the one key element to her health that had proved elusive.

But the emojis in Jean’s text message, it turned out, were not tears of sadness but tears of joy. In a series of photos, she shared her new Boston Housing Authority apartment. Good housing can make a world of difference for Jean and others, just as a lack of housing can be devastating. In hospitals like Boston Medical Center, we see this every day with the patients who come to us.