UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


IEDE academics produce new World Health Organization report

8 February 2021

‘Policies, Regulations & Legislation Promoting Healthy Housing: A Review’ was produced by colleagues from the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (IEDE) and The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), led by IEDE’s Professor Michael Davies.

Tower block buildings in Hong Kong

The potential to improve health and equity through better housing is well established. The World Health Orgazisation (WHO) created Housing and Health Guidelines (HHGL), to provide evidence-based recommendations for housing that support health, quality of life, sustainability, and poverty alleviation.

To further implement the HHGL, WHO commissioned a review of health-promoting housing policies, regulations and legislation that have been adopted at national, regional, and local levels. The resulting report and policy repository provide an overview of international policies, regulations, and legislation to support healthy housing. The interactive publication serves as an aid for policymakers and stakeholders seeking to plan, formulate and implement similar policies aimed at promoting healthy and safe housing for all.

The report makes clear that the consideration of health in housing policies is vital to improve population health. It makes several key conclusions:

  • Many housing policies focus on single health risks
  • There is variability in policy development and implementation globally
  • Relevant policies take a wide range of forms
  • Evidence demonstrates that housing policies can yield health benefits
  • There are well-recognised enablers and barriers to policy implementation

The report also suggests a number of best practice principles:

  1. Work to address gaps in housing policies that promote health locally
  2. Recognise health as a core element in housing policies
  3. Consider multiple health risks in a coordinated manner
  4. Follow scientific evidence and examples of good practice
  5. Incorporate health costs and benefits analyses in policy-making
  6. Acknowledge that housing is part of a complex system
  7. Develop mechanisms to ensure effective and sustained policy implementation
  8. Develop approaches that include the informal housing sector

Who was involved?

The report was commissioned by WHO under the technical guidance of Dr Ramona Ludolph and Dr Nathalie Roebbel, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. The report was produced by a team led by Professor Michael Davies (UCL IEDE) with contributions from Professor Paul Wilkinson (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). The research team included:

  • Dr Helen Pineo (UCL IEDE)
  • Dr Emily Nix (formerly UCL IEDE now University of Liverpool)
  • Ke Zhou (UCL IEDE)
  • Andrew Ibbetson (LSHTM).

Additional support was provided by Professor Hany Ayad and Nourhan Waly at Alexandria University, Egypt, who completed searches in Arabic.

Further information

Image by Kirk Lai on unsplash