MADISON, Wis. (AP) — About 13 percent of Wisconsin residents are paying more than half of their income on rent or a home mortgage and this could have a negative impact on their health care, according to an annual report ranking the health of nearly every county in the U.S.
Sheri Johnson, director of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, said a person’s ability to afford medication or transportation to a doctor can be affected if they spend a large portion of their income on housing.
The institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation evaluate the health of each county by factors that influence wellness, such as poverty, education and transportation, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
“What we know is that health is much more than the ability to go to a doctor,” Johnson said. “Health is really driven by a range of factors including how much income you have, the type of employment.”
This year’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps focused on affordable housing, Johnson said.
More than one in 10 households across the U.S. spend more than half of their income on housing costs, which researchers call a severe housing cost burden.
It’s particularly an issue for people of color and low-income residents, Johnson said.
“A lot of the housing cost burden is related to the lack of progress in wages being able to keep up with housing costs,” she said. “So even though people are working and working hard they are not making enough money to afford the essentials of life like housing.”
The report suggested community strategies to boost affordable housing, such as inclusionary zoning, housing vouchers and ensuring gentrification doesn’t displace residents.