Use of a population-based survey to describe the health of Boston public housing residents.
We compared the health of public housing residents with other Boston residents through a random-digit-dial survey. We used data from the Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System collected in 2001 and 2003 to make crude and demographically adjusted comparisons between public housing residents and other city residents on measures of health status, access and utilization, and health behaviors. Public housing residents were more likely to report fair or poor overall health status, ever-diagnosed hypertension, current asthma, ever-diagnosed diabetes, obesity, disability, loss of 6 or more teeth, and feelings of depression for 15 days or more in the past month. Public housing residents were slightly more likely than others to be without health insurance or report financial barriers to medical care. Public housing residents reported more smoking and physical inactivity, less past-month binge drinking and past-year marijuana use, and similar levels of lifetime drug use. Public housing residents reported substantially poorer health than did other city residents across a variety of conditions but similar levels of access to and utilization of health care. Public health departments may be able to use established surveys to measure health among public housing residents.