Housing improvements should be targeted at those in poorest health

Improving housing can improve health, particularly when interventions are targeted at those in the poorest health, according to a systematic review published in The Cochrane Library. The authors say their review underscores the importance of targeting those most in need when devising programmes for housing improvement.

Despite a wealth of research linking housing to health, it remains difficult to separate the effects of poor housing from the effects of other that influence health, such as poverty. The link could be made more strongly by showing that improvements in housing lead to improvements in health, but these types of studies are rare for several reasons. For example, high quality studies require controls, or houses that are left unimproved for comparison's sake. This would mean withholding benefits that residents are entitled to and would therefore be considered unethical.

The authors included 39 studies from around the world in their review. In studies carried out in high income countries, housing improvements included refurbishment, rehousing, relocation, installation of central heating and insulation. In studies carried out in , improvements included providing and, in older studies, rehousing from slums. Overall, the results suggest that improvements to housing conditions can lead to . Improvements in space and warmth were especially important to achieving better health, and in particular for people with respiratory disease.

"The best available evidence suggests that housing that promotes good health needs to be of an appropriate size to meet household needs, and be affordable for residents to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature," said lead researcher Hilary Thomson of the Medical Research Council/Chief Scientist Office Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, UK.

Housing improvements resulted in greater health benefits when they were targeted at those living in the poorest housing, with the poorest health. The benefits were less clear in housing improvement programmes delivered across whole neighbourhoods, rather than targeted to those individual households in greatest need. "This finding further underlines the need to target households in the greatest need if we are to fully realise the potential for health improvement following housing improvement," said Thomson.

More information: Thomson H, Thomas S, Sellstrom E, Petticrew M. Housing improvements for health and associated socio-economic outcomes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD008657. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008657.pub2

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Poor health could be linked to unaffordable housing

Nov 09, 2010

People who cannot afford their housing are more likely to suffer from poor health, according to a new study, which also found that renters consider themselves less healthy than homeowners.

Allergic to home

Apr 07, 2011

Building characteristics — public housing or private duplex, tall or short, new or old — are associated with indoor allergens, according to a new study by Northeastern researchers. The report, published in the Journal ...

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

5 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

6 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments