Experts push for end to health and housing divide

An international housing expert is in Hobart today to urge policy makers to invest more in housing for the sake of the economy and public health.

David E. Jacobs (pictured left with UTAS professor Keith Jacobs) is chief scientist with the National Center for Healthy Housing in the United States and the director of the World Health Organization USA Collaborating Center on Healthy Housing.

At a University of Tasmania talk hosted by the Institute for the Study of Social Change, Dr Jacobs will discuss how new World Health Organization “healthy housing” guidelines can be used to inform Australian policy.

Read today’s coverage in The Examiner newspaper and also the ABC Mornings interview with Leon Compton.

He will argue for better partnerships between planners, health care and housing professionals, citizens, financial institutions and others.

“We need to look at the root causes of some of our health problems and understand that housing is a key social determinant of health,” Dr Jacobs said.

“Housing and health represent two of the largest parts of our economy, but they remain largely separated, which causes needless suffering and avoidable costs.”

A healthy home includes keeping homes dry, ventilated, maintained, accessible, free of pests, free of contaminants and injury hazards, affordable and thermally controlled.

University of Tasmania research fellow Dr Phillipa Watson

University of Tasmania research fellow Dr Phillipa Watson

University of Tasmania Research Fellow Phillipa Watson (pictured above), who has decades of experience facilitating sustainable change in built environments, said while Tasmania desperately needs new housing, the poor quality of existing homes is also a major problem.


“We have serious socio-economic challenges in Tasmania that are undermined by poor-quality housing and a lack of appropriate housing,” Dr Watson said.


“We, and others, have completed research demonstrating that relatively minor improvements in existing homes in Tasmania can lead to health and wellbeing improvements for householders and, in turn, for Tasmanian society.


“There are large sums of money spent on health every year in Tasmania, and if we just took a small proportion of that money and put it towards improving the quality of our existing housing stock as a proactive measure, there could be large potential health savings to the community.”

Policy makers, journalists and those working in the fields of health, housing, planning and design are urged to attend the free talk by Dr Jacobs at 1pm, Monday, 14 October at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) on Castray Esplanade, Hobart. Register via

The presentation is supported by The Henry Halloran Trust.

  Back to all posts