New study to boost children’s health by improving housing

Our home is where we spend the most time, it can be our main capital asset, and the home environment is of huge importance for our health. Young children who spend most of their time inside the home are especially vulnerable.

He Kainga Oranga, the Housing and Health Research Programme, has received a $4.9 million grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand to help improve housing stock – particularly rental properties – for the sake of our children’s health.

The programme is led by Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, director of NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities, and received the Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2014.

The new research will test the health benefits of several interventions:

  1. Providing insulation, heaters, and feather bedding in 600 newborns’ homes
  2. Introducing a package of housing services in the homes of 800 children hospitalised with illnesses linked to poor housing
  3. Measuring the effects on health, and housing affordability, of implementing warrant of fitness standards for rental properties.

Studies will also:

  1. Measure the effect of traffic-related pollutants on the outdoor and indoor air quality of homes to estimate a distance from busy roads that would be safe for children to live, play and study
  2. Assess the relative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different means of making houses warmer, especially for vulnerable households with children
  3. Look at the extent to which reducing household crowding would reduce infectious diseases and benefit child health.

Issues around housing quality and health outcomes have become part of a national debate:

More information on He Kainga Oranga, the Housing and Health Research Programme