Children fall sick in damp housing

AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 05:00 23/12/2013
Jhordaya Shaw
BETTER HEALTH: Jhordaya Shaw, 3, with family dog Anna. Jhordaya previously suffered from various respiratory problems, but they improved once her house was insulated.

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Invercargill children are getting sick because they are living in cold and damp homes in the city.

Invercargill's Nga Kete Matauranga Charitable Trust chief executive Tracey Wright-Tawha said patients had presented with conditions closely linked with substandard housing.

"Fifty-three children came into our weekly drop-in clinic for asthma or respiratory conditions, all of them from families living below or on the poverty line."

About 37 of the 53 children seen by Nga Kete nurses were Maori compared to 16 that identified as non-Maori.

Invercargill woman Michele Shaw insulated her home this year after her daughter Jhordaya was repeatedly admitted to hospital with respiratory conditions.

"Our daughter was ending up in hospital every second week and being admitted for a week each time."

Ms Shaw said insulation had made the house warmer and it would help improve her daughter's condition.

The Southern District Health Board medical director women's, children's public health and support services, Marion Poore, said national research on housing and health had identified crucial links between poor health and cold damp housing.

"Poor housing is one risk factor that may increase admissions to the hospital for the whole population but especially for children and older persons," she said.

The cooler weather in the south, especially during winter, contributed to the problem.

"Poor housing is a complex problem that requires a multi-strategy approach.

"Public Health South is working with local housing stakeholders, trusts . . . and support groups to link health promotion work into targeted and direct provision of heating and insulation resources for those in need," Ms Poore said.

The Awarua Synergy manager, Sumaria Beaton, whose company is contracted by the Government to install insulation in many homes in the South, said staff were seeing "really damp old houses that had moisture for 50-plus years".

An Invercargill City Council programme, in conjunction with Public Health South, was initiated in July to identify homes that were a safety or health risk.

Council environmental health manager John Youngson said 61 homes had been identified so far, but the number fluctuated from day to day.

"This project identifies dilapidated, dangerous or insanitary housing but we are adding houses each month.

"They are all predominantly in the city's south, with some in Bluff - most of them are on the list because they have cold and damp issues," Mr Youngson said.

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A study by the University of Otago made public last week identified that 50 per cent of children admitted to hospital during a two-week period lived in damp houses.

The study from the University of Otago shows the highest populations at risk were Maori and Pacific Islanders living in low socio-economic areas.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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