Residential Context of Health


Emma Baker
School of Architecture and Built Environment
University of Adelaide
Adelaide, Australia
Tel. +61 8 831 348 51

Terry Hartig
Institute for Housing and Urban Research
Uppsala University
Uppsala, Sweden
Tel: +46-18-471 65 32

Central theme
The Working Group name clearly indicates that the concerns of the Working Group extend beyond those traditionally addressed in the housing-and-health field, namely, connections between physical health outcomes and physical characteristics of housing. In addition to such connections, the Working Group also takes interest in the role of psychological, social and cultural factors in shaping relations between the residential context, including housing, and health more broadly conceived.

Activities and output in recent years
To date, the Working Group and its predecessor (Housing and Health) have convened workshops in Cardiff (1998), Gävle (2000), Vienna (2002), Cambridge (2004), Reykjavik (2005), Ljubljana (2006), Rotterdam (2007), Dublin (2008), Prague (2009), Istanbul (2010), Lillehammer (2012), Tarragona (2013), Edinburgh (2014), Lisbon (2015), and Belfast (2016).

The 1998 workshop in Cardiff resulted in a supplement on housing and health for Scandinavian Housing and Planning Research (now Housing, Theory, and Society).

The 2000 workshop in Gävle resulted in special issues of two journals, Open House International and the Journal of Social Issues. Numerous other papers discussed in the workshops convened by the Working Group over the years have subsequently been published in reputable journals.

The Working Group convened the latest in its series of workshops at the ENHR Conference in Tirana (Albania) in 2017. Colleagues from Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, and the USA participated in the workshop. Framed around papers reporting new findings and broad conceptual concerns (e.g., with regard to the representation of housing affordability), the workshop enabled extensive and high quality discussion of the residential context of health.

The Working Group convened at the ENHR Conference in Uppsala, Sweden, June 27-29, 2018. Colleagues from Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, Sweden, the Netherlands, China, Japan and the USA participated in the workshop. Framed around papers reporting new findings and broad conceptual and practical concerns (e.g., with regard to the production of inequalities in healthy child development; education for green house cleaning), the workshop enabled the usual extensive and high quality discussion of the residential context of health.

The Working Group held the latest in its long series of workshops at the annual conference in Athens in 2019. The eight papers discussed were put forward by colleagues from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, and the USA. They addressed topics including the associations between residential instability and the mental health and educational performance of children; the social production of cold housing; the effectiveness and sustainability of housing interventions meant to address triggers of asthma; the growing potential for and problems with the use of digital technologies in providing health care in the home; the core features and activities of a large scale education program for consumers and stakeholders (the National Healthy Homes Partnership) as it has developed in the USA from 1999 through 2019; the further development of theory about how environments support processes of psychological restoration; and the ways in which experiences of housing damage and displacement were seen to impact mental health following the 2018 flood in New Brunswick, Canada (a type of event expected to become more frequent under current climate change scenarios). All papers were distributed to participants before the workshop, all had an assigned discussant, and all were discussed for at least 40 minutes. We had a rich and enjoyable exchange.

Attendance at the workshops convened by the Working Group has varied over the years, from a handful in Cardiff and Lillehammer to over 20 in Gävle and Vienna. Attendance at different workshop sessions at one and the same conference has shown similar variation. Participation in the workshop at the Tirana conference in 2017 was low for the first of the two sessions, but rather more substantial at the second.

Future plans and activities
As discussed in Athens, the Working Group will convene a similar workshop at the ENHR meeting in Nicosia in 2020.

Policy implications
The research contributed to this Working Group is of continued policy importance. The provision of healthy housing and the significance of the broader residential context are increasingly recognized by governments as essential to wider productivity and population health processes. Recent advances in method, theory and data in this field suggest the importance of pursuing emerging links with other disciplines and fields.

Workshop format
The Working Group coordinators have worked hard to ensure the successful application of a discussion-intensive workshop format in all of their workshops. With that format, each author has 5-10 minutes to introduce his or her paper, distributed to registered workshop participants in advance of the conference. An assigned discussant then delivers comments on the paper for 10 minutes. Finally, the floor is opened to all participants for an additional 20 minutes or so for discussion of the paper. Workshop attendees have uniformly given positive evaluations of the format and recommended that it be used as well in future workshops.

Workshop contents sometimes overlap with those addressed in workshops hosted by other Working Groups, such as Residential Environments and People, so cooperation with those groups could on occasion be advantageous. From the perspectives of the coordinators, however, cooperation would be dependent on the willingness of the other Working Group to follow the workshop format that has been applied these past many years.