Worldwide nearly 1 billion urban dwellers live in inadequate housing, with poor access to clean water and limited sanitation and ventilation. This number is growing: by 2050, as much as 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities (up from 50 percent today). To improve the health and well-being of the urban poor, the Mexican Government created Piso Firme in 2000. The program replaces slum dwellers’ dirt floors with more hygienic cement flooring, thereby interrupting the transmission of parasitic infections, particularly among children. This project investigates the impact of Piso Firme on child health and adult happiness. Researchers found that adults in upgraded homes were substantially happier and experienced lower rates of depression and stress. In addition, children experienced almost 13 percent fewer episodes of diarrhea and benefited from a 20 percent reduction in anemia. Toddlers’ language and communication skills jumped 30 percent, while youth scored 9 percent higher on vocabulary tests. Findings helped the Mexican government to justify expansion of program, which is now offered nationwide. This research also helped attract funding and spur international expansion of the NGO Un Techo Para Mi Pais (“a roof for my country”), which builds low-cost housing for urban dwellers.
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