Linking social and built environmental factors to the health of public housing residents: A focus group study

Erin Hayward, Chidinma Ibe, Jeffery Hunter Young, Karthya Potti, Paul Jones, Craig Evan Pollack, Kimberly A. Gudzune

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Public housing residents have a high risk of chronic disease, which may be related to neighborhood environmental factors. Our objective was to understand how public housing residents perceive that the social and built environments might influence their health and wellbeing. Methods: We conducted focus groups of residents from a low-income public housing community in Baltimore, MD to assess their perceptions of health and neighborhood attributes, resources, and social structure. Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Two investigators independently coded transcripts for thematic content using editing style analysis technique. Results: Twenty-eight residents participated in six focus groups. All were African American and the majority were women. Most had lived in public housing for more than 5 years. We identified four themes: public housing's unhealthy physical environment limits health and wellbeing, the city environment limits opportunities for healthy lifestyle choices, lack of trust in relationships contributes to social isolation, and increased neighborhood social capital could improve wellbeing. Conclusions: Changes in housing and city policies might lead to improved environmental health conditions for public housing residents. Policymakers and researchers may consider promoting community cohesiveness to attempt to empower residents in facilitating neighborhood change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number351
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 12 2015


  • Environmental health
  • Public housing
  • Social determinants of health
  • Urban health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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