Your environment can have a direct influence on your health and behavior. By environment, we’re talking about the spatial component of where you work and live, the physical characteristics- things like lighting, views, color, design elements, furnishings.
Environment includes one’s context- the who, what, why, when, and where that surround and support one’s person. By environment we include the structure, shape, form, siting and also adjacent structures and context- neighborhood ambiance, geographical, natural, and demographic characteristics. Think about how much time we all spend indoors on a daily basis and then, over a lifetime! This is a drastic shift from some 200 years ago when most of our day was spent in farming and food production, and indoor plumbing wasn’t widespread. Imagine all that!
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Survey of Children’s Health report, section on neighborhood conditions states, ‘The physical environment can affect the physical health, safety, social opportunities, and development of a child. Poor neighborhood conditions, such as dilapidated housing, evidence of vandalism, and litter or garbage on the street may contribute adversely, either directly or indirectly, to a child’s overall well-being.“ See ‘The Health and Well Being of Children: A Portrait of States and the Nation 2007, July 2009’.
About 17% of children went on to report litter or garbage on street or sidewalk, 14.6% said they lived in neighborhoods with dilapidated housing, 11.6% vandalism-like broken windows or graffiti. The report stated 71.4% of children did not live with these conditions, but 28.6% experienced at least one of the above mentioned conditions.
Environmental psychologists look at things like real or perceived security and safety as contributors to well-being. The ‘Health and Wellbeing of Children’ report studied perceptions of safety in the neighborhood. Asked how often they felt their child was safe in their community or neighborhood, parents reported, ‘always’ nearly 54% of the time; ‘usually’ about 33% of the time, ‘sometimes’ 11% of the time and ‘never’ up to 3% of the time. Clearly, the federal poverty level has a lot to do with it. There’s a 22% difference in feeling of safety between the lowest and highest incomes.
Factoring into this is parental stress. The NSCH 2007 Chart book reports that about ‘10% of parents usually or always feel at least one form of stress. Parents were asked how often during the past month they had felt that their child was much harder to care for than others of his or her age; how often the child did things that really bothered them a lot; and how often they had felt angry with the child.’ A significant finding of the report is that ‘Levels of stress appear to be higher among parents of older children”. It was 12% of the 12-17 year olds. The level of stress rose to nearly 18% among those with household incomes below the Federal poverty level (which is a big issue in the greater Columbus area as well as the State of Ohio in 2011).
Stress can result in poor behavioral outcomes, increased substance abuse and discord or even violence in families. At a press conference in Cincinnati on Oct. 27, Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose paramount concern is for the safety of children said, ‘Today, abuse and neglect claim the lives of nearly 1,780 children each year. That’s five children every single day — one child every five hours. Furthermore, 81% of these children are just three years old or younger and 50% of them are under the age of one!’
As Senator, Mike DeWine wrote a law in 1997 regarding family re-unification. It places safety of the child as the number one consideration, recognizing that the child’s home environment does not always provide for his or her safety or well-being. That’s why Pomegranate offers a shelter care program with a full complement of psychiatric, nursing and therapeutic services. Read more about it on our website at: www.phs-kids.com/shelter.html
Photo above is John Hedrick, Facilities Director with Brian and Butch (right) and electrical contractors (left).