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Prescribing warmer, healthier homes

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 31 March 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:748

British policy to improve homes should help both health and the environment

  1. Noel D L Olsen, independent public health physician
  1. Oakdale, Court Wood, Newton Ferrers, Devon PL8 1BW.

    Few people choose to live in cold damp homes that they cannot afford to heat well enough to protect their health. Yet for millions of British households this is the reality of poor quality housing, inefficient heating systems, and inadequate building insulation standards stretching back over generations. Last month, however, the British government launched a 10 year strategy to end fuel poverty in vulnerable households.1 This encourages doctors and others to “prescribe” a warmer home for patients receiving benefits.

    Over four million British households suffer fuel poverty,2 defined as needing to spend over 10% of their income on energy to maintain an adequate standard of warmth. Millions more are close to it. In high cost areas, such as Devon and Cornwall, the problem is aggravated by the further 10% of state pension income required for water and sewerage charges. Comparative studies show that British and Irish housing standards are worse than those in other comparable European countries.3 The only sustainable solution is through massive improvement in housing generally, and heating and insulation in particular.

    The government's strategy to end fuel poverty in vulnerable households by 20104 is …

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