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26 May 2020 | Community

Ensuring Kiwis have healthy homes

As we all continue to keep ourselves and our families safe from COVID-19, there’s another factor at play when it comes to staying healthy: your home.

New Zealand has a long history of struggling with unhealthy homes, and more and more we are beginning to see the impact that cold, damp homes can have our families and communities. Ministry of Health data (2018) shows that there are approximately 10,800 children or 13,000 events with potentially housing-related conditions presenting to the hospitals in New Zealand each year.

Making our homes healthier will not only have a positive impact on our health, but on our economy as well. An Otago University study found that preventable injuries and illnesses due to poor housing are costing New Zealand more than $145 million annually in hospital admissions and accident compensation claims.

As if these stats aren’t convincing enough, the World Health Organisation has stated that improving housing conditions can save lives, reduce disease, increase quality of life, reduce poverty, help mitigate climate change and contribute to the achievement of a number of Sustainable Development Goals.

We decided that Kiwis deserve better, so we’ve created the new Healthy Homes campaign, designed to ensure at-risk New Zealanders don’t suffer this winter because of their unhealthy homes.

"Unhealthy, leaky, damp or mouldy homes impact people’s health, but also their wallets and our environment through wasted energy consumption and unwanted carbon emissions."

The goal of the campaign is not only to raise money for our charity partners Plunket, Variety and The Salvation Army, but to raise awareness around the importance of a healthy home and how to achieve it.

Beginning on the 27th of May, customers in The Warehouse, Warehouse Stationery and Noel Leeming stores will be able to support our charity partners in providing healthy homes for Kiwis by purchasing a hygrometer for $10. The device measures the temperature and humidity of a home and can help educate customers on the basic health of their home.

Additional funds will be raised through the sale of four limited edition reusable tote bags at The Warehouse, designed by The Salvation Army and The Warehouse Group team members. Customers at The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery will be able to add a $1 donation at the till. All funds raised will go towards Variety, Salvation Army and Plunket to provide essentials to those in need.

“Our ultimate goal with this initiative is to educate Kiwis about the importance of a healthy home, and to ensure that our most vulnerable families are being supported. Unhealthy, leaky, damp or mouldy homes impact people’s health, but also their wallets and our environment through wasted energy consumption and unwanted carbon emissions,” says David Benattar, Chief Sustainability Officer at The Warehouse Group.

“It's not a temporary solution, we’re looking to continue building out this programme every year to reach more people and ensure even more people are living in healthy homes. It’s a perfect embodiment of our commitment to the environment and Kiwi communities.”

To further illustrate the need around education and awareness for healthy homes in New Zealand, The Warehouse** conducted a survey of 1000 New Zealanders through PureProfile to see exactly how Kiwis feel about healthy homes, and where the gaps are. The results show that 58 per cent of Kiwi households' experience one or more symptoms of an unhealthy home.***

Those comprising the 58 per cent of respondents reported one or more of the following issues in their home; no heating in bedrooms or the living area, poor or no insulation, gaps in floorboards, walls or windows letting cold air in, presence of mould, poor ventilation, and damp. More than half of that 58 per cent, had made no effort to address the issue(s), with 37 per cent saying they weren't concerned or didn't think it was a big deal. Others surveyed said cost was a barrier or they lacked information on how to fix it.

Despite many households experiencing one or more of these issues, most participants considered their homes to be warm, dry, safe and efficient, which shows the importance of education around these issues.

To kick off the fundraising, The Warehouse has donated thousands of blankets, curtains and oil heaters to those who need it most through our partners Variety, Salvation Army and Plunket.

“We know from the 2019 Child Poverty Monitor Technical Report that children from the most disadvantaged communities are three times more likely to get sick with respiratory illnesses, which are more prevalent during cold months,” says Emma Bolwell, National Programme Manager at Variety.

“Through our collaboration with The Warehouse, Variety hopes to provide Kiwi kids living in poverty, who are either sleeping on the floor or bed-sharing this winter, with their own bed and warm bedding for a good night’s sleep.”

The Warehouse has also developed a hub on its consumer-facing website, called The Warmhouse, which will house content and articles on how to keep a home healthy thanks to compiled information sourced from EECA.

Customers will not only be able to tell if their home is healthy or not but will be able to get expert advice on how they can improve the health of their home, and what products can help them achieve a healthier home.

“With the uncertainty around income for many New Zealanders following the COVID-19 pandemic, this campaign is coming at a crucial time,” says Jono Bell, Territorial Community Ministries Director at The Salvation Army.

“We see people struggling in cold, damp homes every year. Despite the changes in rental property requirements, so many people live in substandard Housing that is poorly insulated and unheated. Imagine having to choose between putting food on the table and heating your home on a freezing winter’s night? That’s the choice many of our clients are making every week.”

Kevin Broome, Head of Funding, Partnerships and Brand at Plunket says, “Plunket nurses and health workers too often see young children sick with avoidable illnesses caused by unhealthy housing and this year is no exception. We want to thank the Warehouse for supporting Plunket to provide families in need with blankets, curtains and heaters. Every donation makes a difference."

** Research from The Warehouse conducted by PureProfile.PureProfile gathered the results through an online survey distributed to New Zealanders.

*** Source: EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority).

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