Conference highlights importance of ‘feeling about health’

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October 2, 2017

Most see a relationship between housing and health, but recent New Zealand research suggests how we feel about our housing is also important, the Public Health Association Conference was told in Christchurch today.

Ms Lindsay Lowe of Toi Te Ora Health Service in Tauranga said that the research showed that the meanings people put on housing and how they interpret what they experience is a significant factor for their wellbeing.

Differing conditions

Information was gathered about the differing housing conditions people living in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts experience. This included issues like how connected they felt to their neighbourhood or community, and the location and physical quality of the house.

“These insights help us better understand that housing not being an anonymous stock of dwellings, but as something more meaningful to residents,” she said.

Data was collected from in-depth interviews with people from a range of backgrounds and housing circumstances. Analysis identified key themes that would affect how a person feels about their housing. These included cold, damp and overcrowded conditions.

Recurrent themes

“Vulnerability and insecurity about renting was a recurrent theme,” Mrs Lowe said.

“Renters often described feelings of not being in control and being dependent on the decisions of landlords about rent increases or whether their lease will be renewed. This security is particularly important for young children as it provides a stable living environment. Having to move often may have a negative effect on children’s education attainment and access to health care,” she said.

On a positive note, she said that good quality housing was found to have a protective effect on health and wellbeing.

This research will be used to inform the Toi Te Ora housing strategy and to support working for better housing and health outcomes. A recommendation in the report is to make available culturally appropriate information to empower whanau to keep their homes warmer and drier and reduce the harmful health impacts of overcrowding.

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