Creating healthy living environments -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Creating healthy living environments

By Jonathan Reckford

Caulking and insulating may not be the most sought after jobs on the work site, but according to a New Zealand government study, they may just be some of the most important tasks we can do to help homeowners be healthier. Every dollar spent on insulation, according to the study done by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development in the 1990s, saved two dollars in health costs.

Weatherization is only one component of building healthy living spaces, however. Overcrowding, for example, is a huge issue. The UN-Habitat Partners for Urban Health say, “A number of studies have connected overcrowded housing conditions in childhood with respiratory problems and infections, not just at the time but later in life. Further, multiple housing deprivation can lead to a 25 percent greater risk of disability or severe ill health across the life course, with the risk increasing if the exposure to poor housing occurred in childhood.”

Our own studies show how dramatically a safe, simple and decent home raises the health, educational and living standards of the families we serve. Our holistic approach to serving families has led us to create designs and to partner with other organizations to help create healthy living environments. For example, in a number of locations we have assisted communities in accessing safe drinking water. In Egypt, we have helped families configure their homes so they have separate living quarters from the garbage they sort to make a living, and in Brazil, we use building materials that no longer expose homeowners to the parasites that burrowed in the mud walls of their previous homes.

All these efforts emerge from our vision of a world where everyone starts and ends each day in a healthy home in which they can live and grow into all that God intends.