Practical guide aims to reconnect public health and housing professionals

Happiness-and-HousingThe Scottish Public Health Network (ScotPHN) has produced a new practical guide to help improve collaboration between people working within the public health and housing fields.

The ScotPHN, which is hosted by NHS Health Scotland and is accountable to the Directors of Public Health, believes that while living in good quality affordable housing is one of the keys to good health and wellbeing, realising the potential provided by good housing to improving health and reducing inequalities doesn’t happen by chance.

The introduction of Integration Authorities, bringing health and social care together locally, alongside existing Community Planning Partnerships has created new opportunities to strengthen agency relationships and embed joint working at a national and local level.

These opportunities mean that housing and health professionals are being encouraged to work more closely together and the guide is focussed on them and the new working arrangements which they are forging.

ScotPHN’s report has the full backing of all the Directors of Public Health across Scotland and action to implement its recommendations is already underway. To support this local work, NHS Health Scotland is developing ways in which national support can be offered to strengthen joint working within Integration Authorities and Community Planning Partnerships.

The report highlights the need to move away from an exclusive focus on the hazards that poor housing causes to health and wellbeing. Health and housing professionals are being encouraged to consider a broader view of the positive contribution that good housing can make to improving health, reducing inequalities, and protecting health from existing and emerging threats such as climate change.

Phil Mackie, public health consultant at ScotPHN, said: “We know that our health as adults and into later life is greatly influenced by our experiences across the life course, starting from even before we are born and throughout our childhood and teenage. Policymaking, planning and development that focuses on how and where we live should reflect the fact that the housing decisions of today will shape the health of the Scottish population for many years to come.

“At the same time, housing can have important impacts on the health and wellbeing of some specific groups that make up Scotland’s people: children; older people; those with long-term physical or mental health conditions; those newly arrived in Scotland to live and work; and those in our Gypsy or Traveller communities are notable in this respect. The needs and views of these individuals and communities should be addressed as specific priorities in policy, planning, and delivery to realise the benefits of good housing and reduce inequalities.”

Amanda Britain, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland chair, added: “The substantial impact housing can have on health has too often been underestimated. As a result, there has been a lack of active collaboration between housing and public health professionals to reflect the important interrelationship between the two. In recommending a more joined up approach to health and housing policy, this report from the Scottish Public Health Network is both timely and extremely welcome.

“Above all, encouraging public health and housing professionals to work more closely together will empower the housing sector to make a real and significant contribution to improving health and wellbeing outcomes in the years ahead.”

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