Insulation research: positive effect of insulation on health
In 2011, a collaborative partnership was formed between Community Energy Action (CEA), the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), three Canterbury Primary Health Organisations, and Environment Canterbury (ECan) The partnership set up the Healthy Homes Project with the aim of reducing the number of hospital bed days of high health needs patients, by making their homes warmer and healthier. Orion and MainPower also contributed funding in their catchment areas.
This project initially focussed on frequent users of the health system, identified as having been in Christchurch Hospital at least twice in 2010. In July 2013, the program’s criteria were extended to include other householders with chronic health conditions who would benefit from a warm home as identified by General Practitioners. Over the three years the project provided over 1500 insulation installations, and 450 heating appliances.
In 2015 the project was quantitatively evaluated using the energy efficiency intervention data and medical records of 900 project participants. The sample consisted of approximately 60% homeowners, and 40% tenants.
The findings of this evaluation showed an average reduction of hospital bed days of 29.2% among the 900 person sample. This equates to a reduction of five bed days per annum, per person, and a cost saving to the CDHB of nearly one million dollars.
All partners involved in the project were delighted with the results of the study, and Chief Executive of CEA, Caroline Shone says: “This project was extremely successful for the community, all the collaborative partners involved and the patients themselves. While the cost of insulation and heating is a one off, the benefits last many years. This project was a first for CEA and its partners, and highlights the value of collaborative partnerships – great things can be achieved to benefit individuals and the wider community.”
Surveys undertaken by EECA and CEA indicate that there are still over 30,000-50,000 low income households in Canterbury with inadequate or no insulation in their homes. This evaluation highlights the importance of a well-insulated, warm home, and indicates a pressing need to continue projects such as this one, to ensure that New Zealanders are remaining healthy and warm in their homes.
CEA would like to thank the following organisations for their partnership and support for the duration of this program: EECA, CDHB, ECan, Orion, Mainpower, and the Primary Health Organisations involved.