The Growing Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency that is part of a larger problem of untreated substance use disorder in both rural and urban areas in the United States. By drawing on Urban experts from the health, justice, and safety net policy fields, we are uniquely positioned to detect emerging problems and risks, monitor policy changes, and identify and evaluate innovative solutions. Our ability to work across disciplines is one of Urban’s key strengths and allows us take a comprehensive approach to tackling this issue on multiple fronts.

Policies for Action

The Urban Institute acts as the National Coordinating Center and is a research hub for Policies for Action (P4A), a signature program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. P4A collaborates with experts and scholars across multiple disciplines to shed light on how social-sector policies and laws—in health care, housing, nutrition, transportation, urban planning, education, criminal justice, and more—support or undermine population health, well-being, and equity. P4A is building a robust, actionable evidence base on how policies, laws, and other levers, including those in the private sector, can advance a Culture of Health, with a goal of delivering these data and insights to key policymakers, community leaders, and other change agents. 

The Picture of Health

The United States spends nearly twice as much per person on health care as other rich nations, but we’re no healthier for it. To understand why, we need to broaden our picture of health. Health is driven by much more than what happens in the doctor’s office, so our health problems can’t be solved by health care alone. This feature uses photo essays, personal narratives, and documentary film techniques to peel back the layers of the many factors that play a role in our health.

Emerging Strategies for Integrating Health and Housing

Funded by the Urban Institute Policies for Action Research Hub, this study examines emerging interventions that integrate housing and health services for low-income people, with a focus on interventions where health care organizations have taken a significant leadership role. The research pairs over 30 expert interviews with six in-depth case studies to paint a detailed picture of emerging strategies and their potential to be sustained, expanded, and replicated elsewhere.

For more on health and housing, see the report, "Fostering Collaboration in Housing and Health."

Health of the States

State and local policy decisions can significantly affect disease rates, life expectancy, and the cost of health care—even when those decisions are not directly tied to health policy. Through this project, we analyze state-level data on health systems, health behaviors, social and economic factors, the physical and social environment, and public policies. We use that information to catalog the health status of the states. We also feature select US cities to show that similar influences shape health outcomes locally.

Income Health Initiative

Working in collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health, we are delving into the powerful connections between income and health. The biggest differences in disease rates and life expectancy are less about the medical care we get from doctors and hospitals and more about our social status, including our jobs, income, and wealth. The health implications of these factors are so large that economic policies may be more important to public health than any kind of health care reform.

How Housing Matters

With support from the the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Urban Institute curates research exploring how access to high-quality, affordable housing can strengthen families and revitalize communities. Through the the How Housing Matters website, we hope to encourage practice and policy innovations that facilitate collaboration among leaders and policymakers in housing, education, health and economic development. The ultimate goal is to better and more cost-effectively help families lead healthy, successful lives.