Rentsafe Knowledge-to-Action

Rentsafe Knowledge-to-Action: Mobilizing intersectoral action to address housing related risks affecting low-income tenants.


Jeff Masuda (Centre for Environmental Health Equity, Queen’s University)
Robert Hart (Bruce Grey Public Health)
Erica Phipps (Canadian Partership for Children’s Health and Environment)
Eric Crighton (Health, Environment and Analysis Lab, University of Ottawa)
Connie Clement (National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health)


CIHR Knowledge-to-Action Grant 2015-2018


The aim of the proposed KTA initiative, and the Ontario-wide RentSafe initiative in which it is embedded, is to move scientific knowledge about indoor environmental health risks into action to reduce health inequities among low-income tenants. Utilizing RentSafe research findings that reveal significant KTA gaps and confirm that lack of knowledge is but one impediment to tenants’ ability to secure healthier housing conditions, we will pilot 2 interrelated interventions designed to (1) create the conditions necessary for tenants to act upon knowledge of housing-related health risks and (2) optimize the health/social services system’s responsiveness to such concerns. Drawing upon diverse expertise in RentSafe, we will explore whether and how investment in human interaction via (1) tenant-led peer outreach and (2) increased interpersonal connection among service providers can improve tenant self-advocacy and system responsiveness.

Environmental health risks in housing can have a profound impact on residents’ health. Robust scientific evidence links housing-related exposures with multiple health risks: mould and asthma, radon and lung cancer, lead and IQ decrements in children, inadequate cooling and heat stress, among others. These links underscore the important role of housing quality as a determinant of health, particularly for children and other vulnerable groups. Despite concerteds to promote public knowledge (see Appendix x) and the preventable nature of the risks, housing-related exposures continue to contribute to health inequities and perpetuate disadvantage.

Multiple health and social services agencies have roles in mitigating housing-related health risks. Baseline research conducted through our Trillium-funded RentSafe initiative, led by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health & Environment (CPCHE), points to two key gaps in knowledge-to-action on housing-related health risks. First is a lack of empowerment among tenants, stemming from factors such as fear of eviction, cultural and linguistic barriers and lack of knowledge of their rights. Second is the inadequate flow of information and collaborative links among health/social service providers.

We will conduct two interventions to assess the value of investing in human relationships as an actionable means of fostering tenant self-advocacy and improving system responsiveness:

(1) Design and conduct tenant-led peer outreach on housing-related health risks in Owen Sound (a RentSafe site);

(2) Convene local stakeholders to critically examine the current flow of information/assistance in response to housing-related health concerns and identify ways to optimize coordination and impact, via a curriculum

informed by our novel equity-focused KT (EqKT) framework and 2011 CIHR-funded Knowledge Leaders training pilot which target barriers to intersectoral action through human relations and experiential learning.

We will evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions through pre-/post- surveys, focus groups and social network mapping.

Anticipated results
The proposed pilot-scale initiative will:
– assess the value of investing in human relations between tenants (peer-to-peer) and among service professionals (human connections within institutional networks) as a strategy for improving local/regional systems for addressing housing-related health risks; and
– inform RentSafe next steps and replicable action across Ontario and elsewhere.

Click here for more information about CPCHE’s Rentsafe Initiative