Housing is a key determinant of child and youth health. A significant number of Canadian children and youth are living in housing need, but information regarding the housing status of children and youth in the Ottawa, Ontario, community is lacking.
To examine the housing status of children and youth accessing emergency health services at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (Ottawa, Ontario), and the factors associated with housing status.
Youth and families of children registered at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario’s emergency department were offered a questionnaire. Affordability, adequacy, suitability and stability of housing were evaluated through self-reporting. Housing need was defined as an inability to meet one or more of these criteria. Associations among housing and household composition, demographics and weight-for-age percentiles were examined.
One thousand three hundred sixty surveys were completed. Fifty-four per cent of respondents (663 of 1224) were living in housing need, including 33% of respondents (381 of 1166) who were living in unaffordable housing. Single-parent families (OR 2.82), families with six or more members (OR 2.51) and families who rented (OR 5.27) were more likely to be living in housing need. Children and youth with a primary care physician were more likely to be living in stable housing (OR 0.41). Unsuitable housing was associated with extreme weight-forage percentiles (OR 1.90).
More than one-half of the children and youth in the present study were living in housing need. Health care providers have a responsibility to identify and understand the determinants of health of their patients, including housing, and to work for the improved health of their patients and their communities.