Online housing resource launched to help reduce health inequalities

Publication Date: 21st October 2015

Subject: Housing

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is launching today an online resource, supported by Public Health England (PHE), that aims to inform Environmental Health Practitioners and local authorities on the impact that housing conditions can have on physical and mental health, with the objective to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities.

It is estimated that poor housing costs the NHS at least £2 billion per year, increasing significantly from the previous estimate of £600million*.

The CIEH and PHE believe that use of the ‘Housing and Health Resource’ will better inform and equip local action to tackle the detrimental effects of poor housing on both mental and physical health and wellbeing and reduce demand on public services.
The online housing resource is being launched at the CIEH’s 115 National Conference, taking place in Nottingham, and has been developed by Dr. James Hunter, Principal Lecturer in Public Policy, Nottingham Trent University, and Sian Buckley, Senior Lecturer in Public Health, University of West of England in conjunction with representatives from PHE and CIEH as well as housing professionals .

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said:

“One in five homes present a risk to health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, particularly from excess cold and falls. Together with the CIEH, PHE wants this online resource to help local areas address poor conditions in order to help to reduce health inequalities, and prevent and reduce demand for health and care services.”

Both the CIEH and PHE are keen to improve housing standards in the private sector and the online resource will give local areas better information to enable housing professionals to spot the signs of poor housing, as well as tactics on how to stop and prevent these issues arising in their local areas.

The online resource is a specially designed website that allows easy access to topical information on the links between housing and physical and mental health, a ‘policy and guidance’ section, which helps highlight national policy strategies and frameworks, government departments and agencies, as well as other resources and service providers.

Environmental Health Practitioners and their local partners will also benefit from examples of best practice case studies, summaries of successful projects already being carried out by other areas, as well as guidance on how to develop a housing and health profile for their local areas which can be used to inform decision-making, such as informing Joint Strategic Needs Assessments or targeting resources and policy initiatives.

Graham Jukes OBE, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said: “Good quality housing is fundamental to a healthy and enjoyable life and both the CIEH and PHE want the online resource to inform local discussions about the options to address housing issues as a means to improving health and wellbeing, and ultimately reduce health inequalities.”

ENDS 

Notes to editors 

For more information on the online housing resource and/or CIEH, contact Steven Fifer: 020 7827 5922; s.fifer@cieh.org

Link to Housing and Health Resource: www.cieh-housing-and-health-resource.co.uk 

Statistics 

*Building Research Establishment 2015: https://www.bre.co.uk/filelibrary/pdf/87741-Cost-of-Poor-Housing-Briefing-Paper-v3.pdf 

Case studies 

Multi-organisation ‘Healthy Homes Programme’ conducted by Liverpool City Council:

  • Started in April 2009 to improve housing conditions in the city, as well as engage with residents to offer health and wellbeing related services.
  • Commissioned and funded by Public Health to help address health inequalities through the wider determinants of health
  • Deprived areas of the city were pro-actively targeted, where advocates visited every property: health issues led to referrals to a range of partners; and a team of Environmental Health Officers dealt with the sub-standard housing conditions
  • One tenant had no heating in their property so had been sleeping in a chair next to a halogen heater to keep warm all through winter of 2011. Furthermore, the property had no kitchen worktops and a drainer to the sink
  • As a result, in Liverpool there have been more than 28,000 referrals to various partners and this has led to more than 6,000 home risk assessments, which has then identified nearly 4,400 serious housing hazards that have been remedied
  • This has resulted in nearly £5.4million of private sector investment by landlords in Liverpool towards improving the condition and safety in properties

Cornwall Council’s pilot study ‘HMOs above commercial properties’:

  • Cornwall Council found that when they received referrals from the UK Border Agency and/or the Police service regarding HMOs above commercial premises, such as takeaways, pubs and restaurants, they routinely found unsafe living conditions and poor standards of property management
  • The Council began a pilot project to look back at some of their historical interventions, and requested further referrals from partner agencies and undertook full inspections of the premises in question
  • Poor quality HMOs were discovered and as a result, there has been a variety of enforcement interventions, two prosecutions, and improved partnership working between the Council, the UK Border Agency and the Police
  • The pilot has now been incorporated into a wider project in Cornwall which aims to identify if other ‘subsectors’ of HMO are ineffectively managed. The project involves survey and risk assessment of a significant proportion of HMOs including student accommodation, HMOs predominantly occupied by migrant workers, and HMOs predominantly occupied by people in receipt of housing benefit

About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH): 

The CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing over 10,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved.

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities.

The CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.

The CIEH is a leading provider of regulated qualifications and operates in over 50 countries. For more information visit www.cieh.org and follow the CIEH on Twitter @The_CIEH.

About Public Health England 

Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Website: www.gov.uk/phe. Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland 

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