A quick search for “healthy home” on the internet or social media and you’ll find scores of posts, how-to articles and videos offering various ways to make your home a healthy one. From nontoxic product suggestions to all-natural solutions, there is no shortage of healthy house tips. But is that what healthy housing truly is?
What Is a Healthy Home?
Even if you’ve never heard the expression, the phrase likely prompts certain visuals and ideas. Perhaps you associate healthy housing with a certain vibe or design aesthetic.
Alternatively, the term could bring healthy eating goals and healthy living mindsets to mind. Maybe you write the phrase off as a wellness trend. Or, something more straightforward, such as a safe and structurally sound home.
Whatever it may be, there are plenty of ways to interpret the meaning of a healthy home.
Even so, a broad concept isn’t always the best way to convey a concept’s significance. Nor is a vague idea easy to create and maintain. And if healthy housing is anything—it’s important and attainable.
Let’s break down the meaning of healthy homes.
Healthy Home Definitions
While “healthy homes” isn’t easily found in the dictionary, several organizations have their own healthy home definition. Let’s break them down.
Let’s start with the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO defines healthy housing as:
… shelter that supports a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
WHO’s healthy home definition emphasizes the various types of health that housing affects. Also important to note, they cite both the surrounding outdoor environment and the immediate indoor environment as factors.
By comparison, here is the National Center for Healthy Housing’s definition:
A healthy home is one that is constructed, maintained and rehabilitated in a manner that is conducive to good occupant health.
Similar to the WHO’s definition, it’s broad in scope, but rather than focusing on the various components of health that housing should provide for; it instead describes the various stages of housing that should consider human health.
Another healthy home definition is the Healthy Homes Work Group (HHWG). The HHWG is a federal interagency group focused on the connection between housing and health. Members include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) among others. HHWG defines:
… a “healthy home” as one that provides the most basic needs for the promotion of physical, mental, and social health, regardless of the income status of the resident or location of the dwelling. In other words, a healthy home is sited, designed, built, renovated, and maintained in ways that support the health and well-being of its residents.
In some ways, you could interpret this definition as the perfect mix of the first two. It is also incredibly similar to the CDC’s definition:
A healthy home is designed, built and maintained to support our health.
The Meaning of a Healthy Home
So, what are the main takeaways from the various definitions offered by recognized organizations listed above? There is general agreement about what healthy housing is and isn’t. In other words, the meaning of a healthy home comes down to three main ideas. Or even better, the mega healthy home definition.
- Views human health as a complete well-being rather than just the absence of disease. It accounts for occupants’ physical, mental, emotional and social health. It considers the whole person. Healthy home design is mindful of housing as a social determinant of health.
- Is influenced and determined by, and thus accounts for, both the indoor and outdoor home environments. This makes sense because a home’s quality depends on the indoor living environment and physical structure of the home, as much as the surrounding outdoor environment and location.
- Is ongoing; there is not one phase of a healthy home’s life that does not consider occupant health. Healthy housing facilitates good occupant health from the very first design to the construction phase, through daily life occupation and maintenance, and into potential renovations and building retrofits.
The Value in Defining Healthy Housing
Perhaps the most important takeaway of all; healthy homes are more than a concept. Various organizations were able to define healthy housing because it is quantifiable. However far-reaching the notion of healthy housing may seem, it’s always in the realm of possibility.
There are feasible and tangible recommendations to create, build and maintain a healthy home. There are even standards and regulations concerning healthy housing.
The NCHH in partnership with the American Public Health Association (APHA) developed the “National Healthy Housing Standard” to create nationwide healthy home policy recommendations. Likewise, the WHO released “WHO housing and health guidelines” to better inform housing policy globally.
The Eight Essential Principles of Maintaining a Healthy Home
1. Keep it Dry
Moisture or water damage can lead to mold, mildew, and other contaminants, which can cause serious health issues such as asthma, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems. Keep your home dry by repairing leaks and addressing water damage promptly.
2. Keep it Clean
A clean home is a healthy home. Regularly cleaning surfaces, floors, and carpets can help prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and other germs, which can cause illnesses. Make sure to develop a regular cleaning schedule and stick to it.
3. Keep it Safe
A home should be secure and free from hazards like loose handrails, uneven or slippery floors, and broken or outdated electrical wiring. Ensure you have working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Additionally, ensure that your home has proper lighting and easy access to emergency exits.
4. Keep it Well-Ventilated
Proper ventilation is crucial for a healthy home. Good ventilation helps remove moisture, pollutants, and other allergens from your home. It also reduces the risk of respiratory issues, mold growth, and other problems. Make sure that your home has adequate ventilation, such as through ventilation fans or open windows.
5. Keep it Pest-free
Pests can spread diseases and cause allergies. Keep your home pest-free by sealing entry points, storing food in tight containers, and keeping your home clean and clutter-free.
6. Keep it Contaminant-free
Chemicals and toxins can impact indoor air quality and cause health hazards. Ensure that professionals remove any chemicals or pollutants, such as asbestos or lead, from your home.
7. Keep your home Maintained
Regular maintenance of your home can prevent problems before they become serious, such as regular inspections of HVAC systems, roofs, and plumbing.
8. Thermally Controlled
Inadequate temperature control can result in exposure to extreme cold or heat and health problems. Ensure that your home is controlled with appropriate heating and cooling devices.
Every healthy home attribute significantly impacts your home environment’s health, quality, and comfort.
Of course, in an ideal world, the aim is to improve each attribute to create the healthiest home possible.
But the good news is that even taking small steps to work on improving one characteristic will significantly impact the health and wellness of your home environment!
How To Have a Healthy Home
We’re focused on helping more people recognize the importance of their home environment (and more specifically, their home’s indoor air quality!).
After all, not only do our homes have a huge effect on our health, it’s where we spend the majority of our time. With a better understanding of a healthy home, you can now take action and start creating a healthier home.