By Tori Hamby
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
While many people may not directly relate health care and housing inequality, medical professionals and professors from Durham are asking the Carrboro community to examine the two issues together.
The Orange County Human Relations Commission will hold a panel discussion titled “Health Care Disparity and Housing: What It Means to You,” April 18 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Carrboro Century Center, 100 N. Greensboro St.
“Underrepresented people often live in stressful environments,” said Hayden Bosworth, co-director of Durham’s Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care and panel participant. “They often live by train tracks, manufacturing plants or older homes that often have high amounts of lead.”
According to James Spivey, a human rights specialist who investigates claims of housing discrimination for the Orange County office, the panel will discuss the impact that housing access has on one’s health care and physical well-being.
The panel will feature Bosworth, along with assistant psychiatry and behavior sciences professor at Duke Medical Center Alfiee Breland-Noble and Durham Medical Center staff physician Cedric Bright.
Spivey said that the panel discussion is being held in conjunction with Fair Housing Month, which commemorates the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act in April 1968.
“It set into motion a litany of laws that dealt with how all people deserve to have equal access to housing,” Spivey said. “It was part of the nation’s effort to end discrimination and create equal housing opportunities for all.”
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Web site, a home owner cannot refuse to sale or rent a property to a person based on that person’s race, religion, gender or national origin. The act was amended in 1989 to include discrimination based on physical disability and familial status.
“For example, you cannot refuse a person housing if they have kids,” Spivey said. “You can’t arbitrarily and capriciously say that someone cannot rent an apartment simply because you do not want to have children around.”
Bosworth, a panel participant, said that unequal access to housing can also cause health problems for the individual, as well as the entire community. For instance, living in quarters with poor health conditions can breed and spread diseases, such as influenza and HIV.
“The goal is to try to think on a local level about how we can resolve these issues,” Bosworth said. “We are asking what we can do to teach the community about these issues, to help them be aware of the problem individually and begin to take care of it themselves. It all starts with the individual and reaches out into the community.”
Bosworth said he also believes that housing inequalities play a large role in preventative health care. Unequal access to housing often means unequal access to other places and facilities that are essential to good health, such as safe places to exercise and affordable places to buy healthy food.
“It’s one thing to tell a person to go out and exercise or diet, but if there isn’t a neighborhood where they can do this, the advice often falls on deaf ears,” Bosworth said. “Where people live can have a dramatic effect on their health, which often goes unperceived by the public.”
While Spivey said that housing discrimination continues in Carrboro and Orange County, he does not think it is a frequent problem.
“There are discriminatory acts that continue either purposefully or unintentionally, but I can’t say that Orange County is different from any other county or municipality,” Spivey said.
For more information concerning the panel or to report a suspected case of housing discrimination, contact the Orange County department of housing and community development at 919-245-2488.