Housing impacts health: New WHO Guidelines on Housing and Health
West Bengal

Housing impacts health: New WHO Guidelines on Housing and Health

Kolkata, Dec 4 : Housing and the built environment have a profound impact on human health in multiple dimensions.

The design and quality of housing structures can either increase or mitigate health risks exposure to extremes of heat and cold; insect and pest infestations; toxic paints and glues, and dampness and mould.

Household cooking and heating systems can generate indoor smoke that is a source of cardiovascular and respiratory health risks, as well as cancers. Beyond domestic health impacts, household fuel combustion has a global impact on climate change and the environment – through emissions of both CO2 and other pollutants.

Neighbourhood design is another key determinant of health, which can influence factors such as noise, access to water and sanitation systems, safe walking and cycling networks and spaces for social mingling, recreation and physical activity, etc.

As a result of this wide range of impacts, the development and implementation of healthy housing strategies can significantly reduce current risks to climate and population well-being. 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.

Slum environments, are by definition, neighbourhoods characterized by structurally deficient or unsafe housing. Most slums are overcrowded, lack of access to appropriate utilities, such as safe drinking-water and sanitation, and are subject to insecure tenure.

Slums are also more likely to be sited in areas with other environmental risks, such as flood-plains, mountainsides prone to mudslides, or in the vicinity of waste dumps or heavy industry. All of these factors exacerbate housing-related health risks including: infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases, violence and injury, and mental health issues. (UNI)