Bridging the Gap with Healthy Homes

The Kāinga Ora-Homes and Communities Bill is an opportunity to bridge the gap between Government and community health, says Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ Chief Executive Letitia Harding.   

Poor living conditions can lead to serious health conditions, so warm, dry homes are vital to health. Dampness, crowding, and improper building materials can cause or exasperate many respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), especially in humid regions such as Wellington or Rotorua.   

“It’s great to see the Ministries working on this,” says Letitia. “Our mission is to reduce hospitalisations for respiratory conditions by 20% by 2022. Poor housing conditions contribute in no small part to these hospitalisations, so this Bill aligns well with the outcomes we want for New Zealanders; that’s why we also submitted on it.”   

Letitia acknowledges the frustration of clinicians when it comes to unhealthy home environments.   

“There can be a sense of futility among health professionals in treating people for respiratory conditions if, when they’re treated, they’re put right back into the environment that worsened the illness in the first place,” says Letitia. “This is particularly problematic in areas of high humidity, and among iwi. We hear this all the time, and it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.   

“I believe that Kāinga Ora must build meaningful partnerships at the community health level; we’re the ones on the ground working with the community, and we know the people. Many of our organisations also have existing programmes in this space, and it’s far better to complement these rather than duplicate the efforts.”   

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation is a member of the Steering Group of the Wellington Regional Healthy Housing Response Group (RHHRG). Wellington RHHRG chair Dr. Roger Blakeley also commended Ministry’s efforts to bring together urban development powers and functions, and support community wellbeing.   

The Bill looks beyond the provision of houses to the importance of community, and recognises the role urban development can play in creating both homes and communities,” says Roger. “Over 30 agencies from the housing space are represented, including a working group involved in researching housing data, a community-based housing insulation upgrade, and advocates for healthy heating.”  

 The RHHRG was established to support a collaborative, Wellington region approach to healthy housing, with a vision of ‘Everyone in the Wellington Region lives in warm, dry and safe housing by 2025.’   

Letitia says that Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ are happy to assist in the initiative’s success.   

“We have research, resources, and relationships to help improve respiratory health for hundreds of thousands of Kiwis,” says Letitia. “Working alongside the Government is a no-brainer.   

“A healthy home is our dream for all Kiwis; let’s make this a reality together.”