What are the impacts?

Measuring the impacts of cold homes

All these advertisements on TV and in the metro stations, warning people about the dangers of cold homes. But how do they know a home is what's making somebody sick? Especially in winter when there are so many bugs going around anyway? If you ask me, it's being packed in this crowded care with 150 other people coughing away that's dangerous. But I don't have much choice in that, do I? Exposed to germs for 45 minutes straight, twice a day.

Increasingly, governments have solid evidence to support the link between cold homes and unhealthy people. But much of it has been gotten through what might seem like round-about processes. Obviously, government employees don't go door to door doing physical examinations. And while many do carry out housing surveys, one might think that won't reveal much about the health of people living inside.

Certain housing conditions (such as the presence of mould) are known to be connected to certain health conditions (such as allergies or asthma). But not all the health problems associated with cold homes are so obvious.

Luckily, the crossover of data and information from different sources can be an excellent means of acquiring new knowledge. Officials often start with maps developed during housing surveys that identify areas where houses are known to be old and poorly built. To this, they can add information about the average ages and income levels of local residents.

Knowing the current cost of heating fuel and electricity, officials can make some assumptions about how many people in the area would be struggling to pay their energy bills or perhaps under-heating their homes.   

Turning to statistics collected by local health authorities, they can begin to overlay the incidence of conditions ranging from asthma and allergies in children to respiratory and cardiac conditions in elderly people in the area. These diverse data make it possible to build up a picture of the quality of homes and overall health.

To find out more about how governments use statistics to both assess public health and estimate the potential health impacts of individual homes, click INDEPTH at the top of the page. Ultimately, these types of data and information help governments design effective policy to address fuel poverty.