Objective: To test the hypothesis that receipt of housing subsidies by poor families is associated with improved nutritional status of their children.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Pediatric emergency department of an urban municipal hospital.
Patients: Convenience sample of 203 children younger than 3 years and their families who were being seen during one of twenty-seven 24-hour periods.
Main outcome measures: Anthropometric indicators (z scores of weight for age, weight-for-height, and height-for-age), and the proportion of children with low growth indicator (weight-for-height below the 10th percentile or height-for-age below the fifth percentile, or both, of the reference population).
Results: Multivariate analysis controlling for demographics and program participation showed that receipt of housing assistance contributed significantly to z scores for weight-for-age (P = .03) and weight-for-height (P = .04). The risk of a child's having low growth indicators was 21.6% for children whose families were on the waiting list for housing assistance compared with 3.3% for those whose families received subsidies (adjusted odds ratio = 8.2, 95% confidence interval = 2.2 to 30.4, P = .002)
Conclusion: Receiving a housing subsidy is associated with increased growth in children from low-income families, an effect that is consistent with a protective effect of housing subsidies against childhood undernutrition.