Strong need for healthier homes

19 August 2019

Research highlights need for healthier homes.

Almost 20 per cent of hospital admissions of young children with acute respiratory infections could be prevented if their houses were free from damp and mould, New Zealand researchers have found.

The University of Otago, Wellington research recently published in the international medical journal Thorax, is said to be the largest ever case-control study of the association between housing quality and hospital admissions for young children with acute respiratory infections.

The study found that children who became ill were significantly more likely to live in rented accommodation, have higher levels of socioeconomic deprivation, and experience crowding.

Lead author, Dr Tristram Ingham, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Otago, Wellington, says reducing exposure to poor quality housing could cut the number of hospital admissions for the under-twos by 1,700 (19 per cent) a year.

“If all housing was free from damp and mould, the country could save just under $8 million a year solely in hospital costs,” Dr Ingham says.

“Improving housing quality to prevent such hospitalisations is also highly desirable in terms of future costs, with poor housing quality in childhood associated with adverse health outcomes in adulthood.”

The researchers studied 188 children who were admitted to hospital with acute respiratory infections and 454 control patients - those who saw their GP either with a respiratory illness which did not require hospitalisation or for a routine immunisation.

They found the children who became ill had significantly higher levels of dampness and mould in their homes, which could be addressed by a number of measures, including better heating, insulation and ventilation.

The impact of poor housing on the health of families is the biggest challenge.

SouthSeas Healthcare GP Tagaloa Dr Andrew Chan Mow says poor housing standards, lack of heating, insulation and overcrowding all contribute to sickness. They can have a devastating impact on a family’s health.

The findings of this research enables everyone to act to help Kiwis in need of healthier homes.

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