Sean A. Valles (Michigan State): “Housing security’s place in a ‘Culture of Health’: Lessons from the pandemic housing crises in the US and England”

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the US and England, it quickly proved to be particularly deadly for people experiencing homelessness. Soon afterward, the economic impacts of the pandemic began creating new housing security problems as many workers were furloughed or laid off. When various government entities on both sides of the Atlantic reacted by putting temporary bans on evictions, it reignited old legal and ethical battles about appropriate limits for public health efforts. I put this situation into the context of long-standing theoretical and practical debates in the field of population health, in which the emerging motto is that we need to create a “culture of health” across the whole of society, which includes health-conducive policies in aspects of our culture that might not usually get attention for their positive or negative impacts on health: housing policies, tax policies, working conditions, etc. What could or would housing security look like in a “culture of health” built in the wake of the pandemic? How do the parallel problems—and attempted solutions—in the US and England help illuminate this?

Sean A. Valles is Associate Professor and Director of the Michigan State University Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences. He is a philosopher of health, focusing on the evidentiary and ethical complexities of how social context shapes health.