WHO launched the first WHO Guidelines on Housing and Health
The quality of housing has major implications for people’s health. Poor housing is associated with a wide range of health conditions such as respiratory diseases including asthma, cardiovascular diseases, injuries, mental health and infectious diseases including tuberculosis, influenza and diarrhoea. .
Housing is becoming increasingly important to public health due to demographic and climate changes, according to the latest WHO Housing and health guidelines released today.
The guidelines provide new evidence-based recommendations on how to reduce major health risks associated with poor housing conditions in 4 areas:
- Inadequate living space (crowding)
- Low and high indoor temperatures
- Injury hazards in the home
- Accessibility of housing for people with functional impairments.
They further identify and summarize existing WHO guidance relevant to housing.
The WHO Housing and health guidelines highlight the significant co-benefits of interventions to improve housing conditions. For example, installing efficient and safe thermal insulation can improve indoor temperatures that support health, while also lowering expenditure on energy and reducing carbon emissions.
Improved housing conditions can save lives, reduce disease, increase quality of life, reduce poverty, help mitigate climate change and contribute to the achievement of a number of Sustainable Development Goals, in particular those addressing Health (SDG 3) and Sustainable Cities (SDG 11). Housing is therefore a major entry point for intersectoral public health programmes and primary prevention.
WHO Housing and health guidelines
- Should be developed and implemented to prevent and reduce household crowding.
Indoor cold and insulation:
- Indoor housing temperatures should be high enough to protect residents from the harmful health effects of cold. For countries with temperate or colder climates, 18 ˚C has been proposed as a safe and well-balanced indoor temperature to protect the health of general populations during cold seasons.
- In climate zones with a cold season, efficient and safe thermal insulation should be installed in new housing and retrofitted in existing housing. (Conditional)
- In populations exposed to high ambient temperatures, strategies to protect populations from excess indoor heat should be developed and implemented. (Conditional)
Home safety and injuries
- Housing should be equipped with safety devices (such as smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, stair gates and window guards) and measures should be taken to reduce hazards that lead to unintentional injuries.
Based on the current and projected national prevalence of populations with functional impairments and taking into account trends of ageing, an adequate proportion of the housing stock should be accessible to people with functional impairments.