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Housing need in Canada: Healthy lives start at home

Despite the direct impact of housing conditions on the health of children and youth, Canada remains the only G8 country without a national housing strategy.  Substandard and insufficient housing impacts a family’s ability to access and engage with the healthcare system. Moreover, substandard living conditions can lead to a number of negative effects on mental health, the spread of communicable diseases, educational outcomes, and nutritional status, as well as children’s growth and development.

Housing need in Canada:  Healthy lives start at home is the position statement of the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) that also serves as a call to action. The statement provides an overview of housing need in Canada, while also reviewing literature on definitions of housing need, the health impacts of various types of housing, environmental and neighborhood influences, impacts on the health care system, populations at higher risk, and how health care providers can assess and address housing need among their patients. 

The CPS suggests that all levels of government need to develop and implement housing-supportive policies, informed by a national housing strategy, with the support and involvement of multiple partners, including housing authorities, communities and public health. Recommended roles for primary care providers include: advocating for improved housing, screening for housing status among patients, and connecting patients with local resources.  Students and training programs are encouraged to pursue research priorities related to identifying housing needs for populations, developing screening and assessment tools, and advancing knowledge of referral resources.

Use this resource to:

  • Improve your knowledge base on the impact of housing conditions on the health of children and youth
  • Consider how public health can support primary care providers in addressing patients’ housing needs
  • Support advocacy efforts for housing-supportive policies, including a national housing strategy
  • Facilitate discussion about how public health can collaborate with other partners to address housing as a component of health equity work


Waterston, B.G., Grueger, B., and Samson, L.; Canadian Pediatric Society, Community Paediatrics Committee. (2015). Housing need in Canada: Healthy lives start at home. Paediatrics and Child Health, 20. Retrieved from

Tags: Early childhood development, Environmental health, Healthy public policy, Indigenous health , Socioeconomic status

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