Irrefutable evidence that improving housing improves health

There is now irrefutable evidence that cold, damp houses are bad for our health – they are bad for healthy people and they are particularly bad for people with respiratory problems, the New Zealand Respiratory Conference was told last Thursday.

“New Zealand’s housing stock is infamously cold, damp and hard to heat” says Professor Phillipa Howden-Chapman, University of Otago, Wellington “but the solution of insulation, installing effective heating and fixing up deferred maintenance is now clear.” Professor Howden-Chapman today outlined her latest research results, including an evaluation of the first 46,000 houses insulated under the Government initiative, Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart which showed the impact of improving housing on respiratory health.

“Our Research Programme has also developed a Healthy Housing Index with BRANZ which we are using to rate houses around New Zealand, for their risks to respiratory health and home injuries and energy efficiency. It enables owners and landlords to have an evidence-based tool for making cost-effective decisions about how to improve their housing and could provide the basis of a decent home standard, such as they have in England.”

Robert Linterman, general manager residential at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), further outlined the benefits of the Government initiative, Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme, which aims to retrofit over 230,000 homes.

“Over 180,000 homes are now warmer, more comfortable and healthier thanks to the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme. These warmer, healthier homes provide obvious health benefits, especially for those with respiratory illness.”

“The programme has also allowed us to target those with health issues and those most in need. This has made it possible for many district health boards, primary health organisations, community trusts and health agencies to achieve significant health benefits for Kiwi households, thus reducing medical costs for the country and days off work or school. Independent research has shown that $5 worth of benefits arise from every $1 spent on insulating homes, with the total value of health benefits estimated at over $1.3 billion over the life of the measures” said Mr Linterman.

“We applaud the initiatives being taken to improve housing quality. Many respiratory illnesses could be avoided if we all had warm, dry homes. A lot of New Zealanders will have better respiratory health because of the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme” says Dr Bob Hancox, medical director of the Asthma Foundation.

“These presentations to the New Zealand Respiratory Conference reinforce the importance of prevention” says Angela Francis, Chief Executive of the Foundation. “Give our children good housing, good lungs and a good start so they have the best opportunity to grow strong and be well throughout their lives”.

Background

  • About 1 in 4 New Zealand children and 1 in 6 adults has asthma.
  • New Zealand has the second highest rate of asthma in the world, following the UK.
  • About 800,000 New Zealanders are affected by asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Source: Asthma Foundation via Community Scoop