Source: NZ Herald, 23 June 2016
Homelessness and poor housing impact on people's health in many
ways, says a local public health expert.
"Cold, damp and mouldy homes are associated with illnesses such
as asthma and respiratory infections," says Dr Jim Miller, medical
officer of health at the Bay of Plenty District Health Board's Toi
Te Ora Public Health Service.
"Cold indoor temperatures also increase the risk of worsening
heart problems. [And] crowding in homes increases the risk of
spreading infectious diseases, such as acute rheumatic fever."
Beyond physical illnesses, crowded, cold, damp, and unaffordable
housing can also affect people's mental health, says Dr Miller.
"Secure housing that also enables connection with the local
community helps to support people's good health and wellbeing."
He says the Bay has high rates of respiratory infections in
children - particularly in winter - and Toi Te Ora has been working
alongside district health boards and other agencies to help improve
the quality of housing locally.
"[The service] has a programme of work to reduce childhood
infections, which includes respiratory infections, and improving
the quality of housing is key to that."
The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine agrees that
housing is a key determinant of health and says it is concerned
many New Zealanders do not have access to adequate, safe, warm, dry
and affordable houses.
The college policy statement says national research shows
improved health outcomes can be achieved through measures such as
retro-fitting insulation and providing improved heating.
The benefits include:
- Fewer triggers of respiratory illness (less wheeze for those
- Fewer GP visits;
- Less time off work/school;
- A trend towards reduced hospital admissions for respiratory
and coronary conditions.
The college says an economic evaluation of the Warm Up New
Zealand: Heat Smart Programme (which provides subsidies for
retro-fitting insulation and heating for homes built before 2000)
demonstrated a benefit-cost ratio of 3.9, which means that the
benefits are 3.9 times higher than the costs. Achieving a
comfortable living temperature of at least 18C is considered key to