While it takes a village to raise a child, empowering a village to tackle health and development problems facing a child often takes a hub. In our work examining social determinants of health, we’ve found community institutions that play a key linking role in daily life — what we call hubs — frequently act as nerve centers or catalysts to help address such problems as mental health.

Recently we looked at how housing can function as a hub for health, community services, and upward mobility. Combining health with social services often is the most effective health strategy for the elderly and young families. With mental illness typically originating in childhood and adolescent years, and often exacerbated by home and community conditions, it can often make sense to build supports around the home setting.

One of the toughest challenges is collecting and sharing the data needed to coordinate services. Helping a child with behavioral or mental health issues, for instance, may require the school, the home, physicians, and perhaps the juvenile justice system to share information to facilitate coordination.

The national organization representing large public housing authorities has helped address this by creating several data-sharing agreement templates to help the housing and education sectors collaborate and share data.

In a venture known as Housing Opportunities and Services Together (HOST), for instance, a group of housing authorities in Washington DC and three other cities, in conjunction with the Urban Institute, is testing approaches to using housing as the platform for a variety of services and supports, including mental and behavioral health. HOST employs a two-generational, place-based approach that goes beyond physical health, using social services to improve families’ social and economic futures, while integrating services for adolescents and children.

Read the full article about housing by Stuart Butler and Marcela Cabello at Bainum Family Foundation.