Source: University of Otago, Wellington, 21 March
New evidence from the University of Otago, Wellington shows that
government social investment in safer housing would be justified to
He Kainga Oranga/the Housing and Health Research Programme at
the University of Otago, Wellington tested the safety benefits of
home modifications, including handrails for outside steps and
internal stairs, grab rails for bathrooms, outside lighting, edging
for outside steps, and slip-resistant surfacing for outside areas
such as decks and porches.
Study lead author Associate Professor Michael Keall says that
the social benefits of preventing injuries through home
modifications were at least six times the costs of the
"Moreover, this benefit-cost ratio was doubled for older people
and increased by 60 per cent for those with a prior history of fall
injuries," Associate Professor Keall says.
The new study found that nationally there were more than 300,000
medically treated injuries from falls in the home each year, with
an additional 150 deaths.
The research was funded by the Health Research Council of New
Zealand, with assistance from the Accident Compensation Corporation
(ACC), and published in the international journal Injury
The results add to the Home Injury Prevention Intervention
study, done by the He Kainga Oranga researchers and published
earlier in The Lancet*, which showed that injuries
from falls in the home were reduced by just over a quarter (26 per
cent) after the intervention. In that study, an average of $564 was
spent per home.
Associate Professor Keall says that a national roll-out of home
safety measures is supported by robust evidence and has sound
"We think it could be implemented in a similar way to the 'Warm
Up New Zealand' programme. Although only 20 per cent of New Zealand
homes have been insulated, EECA-funded schemes (including the 'Warm
Up New Zealand' programme) have been highly successful in
insulating over 300,000 homes, clearly improving the health of New
Zealanders in these homes," he says.
"Although the safety modifications carried out for the homes we
studied needed to be tailored to the house in a much more specific
way than retrofitted insulation, we have carried out these safety
modifications successfully in around 1,000 homes. The impressive
reductions in fall injuries are a testament to the effectiveness of
"There is great demand for builders at the moment to address New
Zealand's housing supply crisis. However, the community trust
Better Homes in Taranaki, who carried out home safety modifications
recently, employed semi-retired builders whose experience was ideal
for the work they were doing. This work is less physically
demanding than housing construction, and would suit many skilled
tradesmen who are not currently building houses," Associate
Professor Keall says.