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 to mind healthy eating goals and healthy living mindsets. Maybe you simply write the phrase off as a wellness trend. Or, something far more straightforward, such as a safe and structurally sound home. Whatever it may be, there are certainly 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 an imprecise 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, there are several organizations with 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 worth mentioning 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, from the various definitions offered by recognized organizations listed above, what are the main takeaways? 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 state of 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, all the way 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.
What Are the Characteristics of a Healthy House?
Overwhelmed? We get it. Now that we’ve narrowed down the idea of healthy homes, let’s discuss how to attain a healthy home. The definitions and policy recommendations may be vast, but they are not vague. There is a handful of characteristics generally accepted as healthy home qualities. They are:
- Thermally Controlled
This list of healthy home characteristics was first determined by NCHH. The last two on the list, accessible and affordable, were recently added this year. And number nine, energy-efficient, is a feature more often seen on green and healthy home lists. Nonetheless, the attributes listed above are healthy home characteristics.
Every single healthy home attribute has a significant impact on the health, quality and comfort of your home environment. 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 what a healthy home is, now you can take action and start creating a healthier home.