Research highlights need for healthier homes
New research on the link between damp housing and children’s respiratory health supports Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ’s assertion that there is a strong need for proper housing for all New Zealanders, says Chief Executive Letitia O’Dwyer.
This research, led by, Dr Tristram Ingham, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Otago, Wellington, shows that reducing exposure to poor quality housing could cut the number of hospital admissions for under-twos by 1,700 (19 percent) a year, and lead to healthcare savings of almost $8 million.
Letitia says that this research should be a wake-up call for Government to act to help Kiwis in need of healthier homes.
"Respiratory problems cause 1 in 10 hospital stays in New Zealand," says Letitia, "and poor housing conditions contribute in no small part to these hospitalisations. This study indicates that at least 20 percent of hospitalisations for children with respiratory illnesses could be completely avoidable if they had access to dry, mould-free housing."
The study also found that children who became ill were significantly more likely to live in rented accommodation, have higher levels of socioeconomic deprivation, and experience crowding. Letitia says that this is widely known in the medical community, but the study’s confirmation of the extent of this explains clinician’s frustration with unhealthy home environments.
"There can be a sense of futility among health professionals in treating people for respiratory conditions caused by poor housing, if they’re put right back into that unhealthy environment afterwards," says Letitia. "These issues hit the most vulnerable among us hardest; dampness, crowding, and improper building materials are major culprits in exasperating asthma, bronchitis, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), especially in humid regions such as Wellington, and among iwi.
"The Foundation’s mission is to reduce emergency visits for acute respiratory conditions by 20% by 2022, but our focus doesn’t seem to resonate with Government, or the Ministry of Health. Respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in New Zealand; it should be a priority for any Government focused on public wellbeing.
"Healthy homes, awareness, emergency action plans, and education in schools are all part of the same package, and ARFNZ will continue to do our best in these areas. But there is only so much we can do relying on the generosity of donations and the community, and we need support at the highest levels.
"What we need is for this Government to take action on the fight against respiratory disease in New Zealand."