The Healthy Housing Index

The Healthy Housing Index pilot study aims to investigate the feasibility of creating a Healthy Housing Index (HHI): an indicator of housing condition and related health and safety outcomes.

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HHI Overview

A Healthy Housing Index is a number formed from housing factors that indicates the ‘healthiness’ of a house or, conversely, provides a measure of how likely it is that occupants will suffer ill health or accidents due to housing factor(s). The Index has been modelled on the concept of the British Housing Health and Safety Rating System. Modifications have been made for our unique environment and the nature of data available in New Zealand.

HHI Purpose

The purpose of the Healthy Housing Index (HHI) is to serve as a tool to understand the link between housing and health at both a community and individual household unit level. The HHI provides a practical tool for understanding the link between housing and health and is intended for use by ACC, Local Government, District Health Boards, Primary Care Providers and other agencies involved in the housing and/or health and safety sector. It is hoped that ongoing application of the HHI will allow the identification of high need homes, families, and communities and provide a basis on which to target resources to reduce inequalities in health.
All measures in this work focus on the structure and condition of the house; there are no indicators of behaviour within the home. For explanatory and policy purposes, we consider it important to separate out environmental from behavioural factors. Considerable work has already been done in the behavioural area, e.g. the Canadian Index of Household Crowding. The HHI will identify the potential for occupants to have a safe and healthy interaction with their house. In this sense the Index will be a snap shot within a broader picture of what it means to have a healthy home.

Read a paper discussing the purpose of assessing housing quality

Investigate these links to overseas approaches to the Healthy Housing Index.

HHI Pilot Study

The pilot study involved contacting and identifying 100 houses in the Hutt Valley from a range of geographical areas, stratified by age and rating on the New Zealand Deprivation Index, who were willing to participate in the development and initial validation of the Index. A house condition survey has been designed that includes factors such as: insulation, mould, sewerage, heating, temperature of water, ventilation, and safety on stairs (interior/exterior).

The Index is a measure of the material determinants of health. At a later stage, it is planned that the Index will be adapted to be used by and for whanau to address specific housing needs at a whanau level (whanau ora), and it is hoped the Index will also be able to be adapted to the needs of specific groups and persons with distinctive housing needs.

The pilot was a collaborative project between the Housing and Health Research Programme and the Building Research Association of New Zealand. Hutt Valley District Health Board, ACC and Hutt City Council have provided support for the study.

The Taranaki Home Injury Hazards Study

This study involved using the HHI to assess 1,000 Taranaki homes. Occupants were also asked for details about their health and safety that may be related to their homes, such as whether they had suffered a recent home injury. The research team analysed the data to show how common home injury hazards were and how strongly they were linked to the risk of home injuries. From this analysis, a cost-beneficial approach to fixing hazards in the home was recommended.

The study was a collaborative project between the Housing and Health Research Programme, Better Homes Taranaki, the Building Research Association of New Zealand and NZIER. ACC provided funding for the study to assist in developing injury prevention initiatives for the home setting, which imposes a huge injury burden on New Zealanders.