Published March 26, 2019
Poor housing conditions worsen physical and mental health and well-being for economically vulnerable populations, including some of Buffalo’s residents who have arrived as refugees.
The built environment has direct and indirect effects on physical and mental health. Housing with insufficient daylight, toxic residues, and inadequate ventilation and insulation are associated with respiratory infections, lead poisoning and poor mental health. The social circumstances of one’s housing — for example, crowded living spaces, as well as those that foster isolation — similarly impact health. Though quality housing is crucial for public health, affordable housing is becoming scarce. Further, lessees may not know their rights and fall victim to property owner violations, a problem that is particularly pronounced among newcomers to the U.S.
Housing for refugee health and well-being is the topic of the sixth annual Refugee Health Summit taking place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 13 in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The summit will examine Buffalo’s housing crisis, explore the links between housing and health, recommend policies to improve housing for better health of refugees and identify innovative practices that improve mental and physical health for new Americans.
Registration is now open for the event.
“Now in its sixth year, the Refugee Health Summit has become part of the fabric of our community. With the goals of health and wellness for all in our neighborhoods, the summit continues to encourage new ideas, interprofessional talent and community collaborations,” says Kim Griswold, professor in the Department of Family Medicine in the Jacobs School.
Each year, summit organizers poll the community to learn what refugees and those who serve them feel are the key topics. This year “housing and health” was No. 1 on that list.
“This year’s theme, emphasizing how housing influences health, couldn’t be more timely, as Buffalo strives to improve every environment in our city,” adds Griswold, who also serves as lead for refugee health and well-being in the Community for Global Health Equity.
In addition to researchers from UB, summit presenters will include partners from several community organizations, including the Partnership for the Public Good, International Institute of Buffalo, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) and Grassroots Gardens of WNY.
The summit also has the support of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “The City of Buffalo is committed to our refugee communities. Our ongoing work to expand affordable housing options in the city, to register rental units and hold absentee landlords accountable doesn’t happen without the help of residents, tenants and community organizations,” Brown says.
“The importance of quality, affordable housing options for every resident cannot be underestimated, and I’m glad to see that this year’s Refugee Health Summit addresses the need for our refugee communities to know their rights as tenants and to know that housing issues may impact their health,” he adds.
Previous Refugee Health Summits have addressed UB-community partnerships, health care for refugees, and trauma and cultural competency.
“Every year the refugee community has a greater impact on the topic of the event and I’m excited to see how the city and our Office of New Americans can partner with researchers and community members to ensure that housing issues are addressed for the good of all of our residents,” says Jessica Lazarin, director of Buffalo’s Office of New Americans. “We know the summit is a collaborative effort that makes a positive difference in the health of our refugee residents and their families.”