Research collaborations between different disciplines are a good way to build knowledge and share resources. Housing and health is one area where more cross-sector collaboration is needed. But collaboration doesn’t just happen. Stuart Butler and Marcella Maguire say in their article that collaboration needs a supporting infrastructure.
Butler and Maguire argue that health and housing partnerships remain in their infancy compared with other collaborations. So what is holding up the development of this essential partnership? They say it is the need for connective tissue.
“Connective tissue is a way of describing the infrastructure needed to support intentional alignment, coordination, and integration between sectors or organizations that serve the same or similar populations in a community.
By “infrastructure” we mean both tangible elements, such as information exchange systems, financing, personnel, shared language, and the intangible elements of trust and shared goals. Developing systems and trust that address cross-sector needs does not just happen; it requires a deliberate process that moves beyond the individual goals of any one system towards a community-wide approach.”
Why the partnership is important
Housing can be the platform for the range of services needed to promote good health. It is a foundational social driver of health. Housing and health partnerships are particularly valuable for addressing the needs of marginalised populations. Collaboration supports:
- Ageing in the home and community
- Meeting future pandemic situations
- Ending homelessness and housing instability
- Supporting NDIS participants and their families
- Addressing some of the impacts of climate change
Components of success
The authors say the components of success include clearly defined goals, network development, and working on projects together. And a good point is made about budgets and cost-shifting:
“Partnerships are often weakened by the “wrong pockets” problem. This exists when one sector needs to invest in a way that benefits another sector but offers little or no direct cost savings to the first sector. In a housing-health partnership, for example, a housing authority might be considering improving safety features in all bathrooms for older residents. But the main cost saving would be to the Medicare program, not to the housing budget.”
The title of the article is, Building connective tissue for effective housing-health initiatives.
See also the WHO Housing and Health Guidelines which includes a chapter on accessible housing.