Healthy housing is also a harm reduction strategy

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Social well-being is also a determinant of good health

New Delhi, 13th December 2018: The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released the first-ever guidelines to guide governments, builders and developers on framing healthier policies and to ensure better housing standards in the community.

Housing quality is becoming a major social factor determining health in view of climate change such as global warming, the rise in the elderly population and the spurt in urban growth and population.

Apart from physical and mental well-being, a state of good health includes social well-being as well. This is influenced by factors such as housing, occupation, income and education. Healthy housing offers protection not only from physical harm but also privacy, emotional security and a sense of belonging.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “The WHO guidelines are of particular significance given the increasing incidence of air pollution – both outdoor and indoor – in India. Poor quality of housing can lead to deterioration of health and early death in the similar manner as other physical and mental illnesses. Unhealthy housing conditions including poor ventilation, etc. are associated with the risk of diseases such as heart attacks, respiratory issues and premature death. Some points one should consider as echoed in the guidelines also include adequate living space; proper temperature; safety of occupants including the elderly and those with disabilities; good ventilation and safe water; clean toilets; minimum noise levels; and safe indoor air quality.”

Statistics indicate that currently, about one billion people worldwide live in crowded housing conditions putting them at an increased risk of health issues.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “The need of the hour is to educate citizens on healthy living. They should be encouraged to follow clean and hygienic practices to avoid the spread of diseases. All these encompass healthy housing conditions as well. Existing houses can be made more livable to combat indoor air pollution. Regulations should also be enforced strictly to curb noise pollution in residential areas.”

WHO has defined health has as “not just the absence of disease, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. This clearly indicates that the conditions we live in and work also affect our health. Thus, it is not enough to address just the immediate presenting complaint, it is also important to treat the person as a whole in context of his/her social circumstances. Treatment must be tailored to each individual patient taking into consideration their individual characteristics, culture, personal preferences, expectations etc. Harm reduction forms the basis of a healthy body and mind.