BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Healthy Housing



Housing is a socio-economic factor that significantly impacts health and well-being. Therefore, houses and housing plans must accommodate the health and well-being of individuals and communities to support and build resilience. Healthy housing is a human right because the lack of it would result in poor health, higher mortality rates and increased risk of chronic diseases. Substandard or deficient housing is a major health risk and is usually common to low-income households. Some conditions associated with poor housing include the use of lead-based paints, build up of radon gas and the presence of mould, mites, and allergens. Approximately 40% of childhood asthma is attributed to indoor exposures to substances in low-quality housing. About 2,000 Canadians die yearly from lung cancer associated with Radon, a colorless, odorless gas that often builds up in some poorly maintained houses. Problems related to poor housing such as potential for fire hazards, poor ventilation and other unsafe conditions that do not meet building standards, can result in critical injuries or even death.

The scientific evidence on the association between housing and health has increased considerably in recent years. These evidence can be used to direct primary prevention measures such as housing construction, renovation, use and maintenance, to promote better overall health. Healthy and efficient housing is promoted for many reasons; to conserve energy in this era of climate change, address the housing needs of urbanization and to prevent or eradicate homelessness. There is an apparent need for governments and other organizations to promote health by investing in healthy housing. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized the importance of developing an international guidance on healthy housing after the consultation of 40 experts from 18 different countries, a conference hosted in Geneva from 13th  to 15th October, 2010. This international guidance is intended to support the prevention of a wide range of diseases and unintentional injuries through healthy housing.

The cost of private, for-profit housing makes it impossible to meet the housing needs of low-income households. Consequently, governments must intervene and provide subsidies to accommodate people who cannot afford the healthy houses they need. National governments have a responsibility to provide citizens with the building blocks of health, including safe, healthy and affordable housing. Unfortunately, many levels of government have remained reluctant to investing in healthy housing for low-income people. Ironically,  it is economically better to invest in healthy housing because the social and health costs of poor housing and poverty consistently outweigh the costs of investing in subsidized social housing.

Ways in which the government, and housing agencies, can accommodate health and well being into housing plans include:

  • Encourage healthy housing designs, construction and maintenance across the housing continuum
  • Work with housing agencies to create plans that meet the specific needs of people
  • Promote superior indoor air quality through properly ventilated houses
  • Provide safe water and lighting
  • Conserve resources, especially water and energy -including the consumption of electricity and other fuels, and encourage the use of renewable energy
  • Ensure houses are environmentally responsible through the use of alternative water and wastewater systems, site planning that reduces land requirements, resource-efficient landscaping and a consideration for broader community planning issues such as transportation.
  • Invest in affordable housing

Comments are closed.