Public health, environmental and social determinants of health (PHE)

WHO workshop on housing, health and climate change

13-15 October 2010
WHO HQ, Geneva

Housing and construction policies offer great potential for reducing green house gas emissions and for protecting people from extreme weather events. Many countries are therefore investing to improve the energy efficiency and safety of buildings, as a way to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Overall these programs are also expected to contribute to economic recovery and to a greener economy.

Housing and construction are also linked to health, through indoor air quality, mould and damp, injuries, exposure to chemical and other risks. So far the improvements in building to mitigate and adapt to climate change have not yet considered the potential risks to public health that may be involuntarily caused, nor the additional health gains that could be obtained if health was considered as part of decisions in housing.

The efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change in housing and construction offer a major opportunity for public health. WHO is bringing together the knowledge and experience on health and climate-change mitigation and adaptation for housing, to support the connection between these two agenda, so as to promote health through housing. Our aim is to include health as a major objective of construction and rehabilitation of housing and built environments in the context of climate change and beyond.

For this purpose, WHO is convening a workshop on housing, health and climate change, engaging experts and actors in health, building and housing at national and international levels. The workshop will bring a health perspective to and practical guidance for the proposed improvements in the built environment to be enacted in response to climate change, including mitigation and adaptation measures such as in energy efficiency. It should lead to the development of science-based advice on how measures to reduce climate change in housing and construction can avoid risks to health, and produce health improvements.

The meeting will also consider and make recommendations about the need and opportunity for a wider set of science-based guidance for healthy housing and buildings to be led by WHO.