With the NBA playoffs in full swing, pro basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson made an appearance at the Holden Heights Community Center in Orlando on Wednesday to raise awareness about the lack of affordable health care and affordable housing for a growing number of Floridians.
Johnson teamed up with Simply Healthcare Plans (Simply) for the event that focused on how housing affects health.
“On and off the court, I’ve seen how team effort can yield powerful results,” said Johnson. “It will take all of us working together to fight against housing instability and homelessness, especially for communities of color that are disproportionally affected by housing insecurity. Everyone deserves to live in a secure environment that will promote better health outcomes.”
Event organizers cited studies showing a direct correlation between housing instability and increased medical and behavioral health problems. Communities of color are among those who suffer the most and disproportionately experience housing instability, homelessness and poorer health outcomes.
“The data is clear, those who face homelessness or housing instability often experience greater health challenges,” said Holly Prince, President of Simply. “Simply is committed to bringing state leaders and communities together to ensure Floridians have access to safe and affordable housing so they can live healthier, happier lives.”
Johnson brought star power to the event and served as moderator for the event.
According to a report published by the National Institutes of Health, there are four main factors when it comes to housing that may influence health. They include: 1) cost, 2) conditions, 3) consistency or stability, and 4) the context of the neighborhood. Housing circumstances contribute to health disparities, and they can have lasting impacts on the health and well-being of Floridians.
“No one should have to live on the streets,” said Leeanne Sacino, Executive Director of Florida Coalition to End Homelessness, and one of the panelists. “Florida Coalition to End Homelessness is committed to helping those experiencing homelessness and working with other like-minded community partners to make significant progress on this issue.”
Data from the Health Resources and Services Administration shows there is a high percentage of health challenges identified in Americans who are homeless. Homeless patients (28%) are significantly more likely to report serious psychological distress than community health center patients (14%) and public housing primary care center patients (16%). Children living in subsidized housing units are four times more likely to be in fair/poor health than those living in owner-occupied homes.
“Today’s event was an encouraging depiction of how community leaders are teaming up to improve health equity by increasing access to housing,” said Brian Postlewait, COO of Orlando Continuum of Care.
The rising value of residential properties and cost of rent contribute to the crisis. Between 1960 and 2016, median rents rose 61% and median home values increased 112% along with a doubling of the number of renters who are cost-burdened, according to a 2018 Harvard University report.