Ending the Cycle of Substandard Housing and Health Issues | Housing

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Your Living Hell series of articles on the crisis in Britain’s rental sector has highlighted the significant impact that the buildings in which we live and work can have on our physical and mental health and wellbeing. As you’ve shown, housing is associated with a huge inequity in health-related outcomes for the most disadvantaged members of our society.

People living in poverty are more likely to live in poorer quality housing, which then increases the risk of poor health. Poverty and poor health are themselves barriers to choice, and so the ability to afford or access healthy, stable homes will become increasingly unlikely, reinforcing existing health inequalities.

Turn this situation on its head by ensuring safe, clean and warm homes, and people will be in better health, need less support from health and social care services, including the NHS, and become more productive, and so the vicious cycle becomes virtuous.

Like our predecessors who cleared cities of cellar dwellings and back-to-backs in the 1800s, directors of public health are committed to working in partnership to develop and improve buildings in our local communities to enable everyone, regardless of their background, to thrive and contribute to society.

However, while local effort is vital, bold national action is needed to really make a difference. In addition to addressing the issues with our current housing, we need to make sure that future homes are built with our health in mind.

We know prevention is better than cure, both for the individual and for society at large. Staggeringly, however, the government has recently rejected a proposed amendment to the levelling up and regeneration bill to make it a requirement for decision-makers to think about the positive promotion of people’s health and wellbeing.

Prof Devi Sridhar was right (Run-down rental homes are putting children in hospital: this is an urgent public health issue, 14 November). The government must take action, for although it will cost us to introduce new housing regulations, retrofit homes and create healthier spaces to live and work in, it will cost us significantly more if we do not.
Greg Fell
President, Association of Directors of Public Health; director of public health, Sheffield
Matt Ashton
Policy lead for healthy places, Association of Directors of Public Health; director of public health, Liverpool city council

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