Australia – Housing for Health

The majority of Healthabitat’s work has been in Australia. Largely in poor communities in regional and remote areas. This tough, grinding, dirty work has been done by literally thousands of people. Titled “Housing for Health” these projects focus is to provide a healthy living environment.

Project Background Housing for Health Projects since 1985

HLPs Targeted

Housing for Health projects target Safety and all 9 Healthy Living Practices. Every project goes through a rigorous methodology that combines immediate action with data collection to simultaneously fix houses and gain a clear understanding of what other aspects of the house need fixing to improve health. There is never enough time or money so having prioritised goals allows the energy and capital to be directed towards the biggest health impacts.

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A Case Study A community in the centre of Australia

Trachoma, a developing world bug that leads to blindness was present in 95% of school aged children in the late 1990’s

2. Skilled trades and local teams fix showers and put face washing facilities in the school so kids can wash the bugs out.

3. Dust scours the eye which lets the bug in. We get the Doctor of Dust to figure out that most dust is within one metre of the ground. We build dirt mounds to stop dust.

4. We get the Fly Doctor (real person) to determine the one fly carrying the bug. We use dung beetles to eat the fly habitat and change the environment.

A healthy eye. A rapid and lasting drop in Trachoma.

Lessons from the Data Does our work effect health?

Health data tells us that your living environment impacts your health. A poor living environment increases your risk of poor health. We measure the potential health benefits of a house at the start and end of every project so we can ensure the money we spend actually improves the living environment.

We start on day one of every project. We’ve learned – we don’t make promises, we don’t do reports. We arrive in the morning with tools, tons of equipment, trades and we train up a local team on the first day to start work. By the evening of the first day, a few houses in that community are better than when we started in the morning. We test, check and fix 250 items in every house.

This work continues for six to 12 months, until all the houses are improved and we’ve spent our budget. At the end of six months to a year, we test every house again. It’s very easy to spend money. It’s very difficult to improve the function of all those parts of the house.




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Houses with SAFE electrical systems




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Critical Healthy Living Practice 1 – Washing people, particularly children :

Houses with a working SHOWER.




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Critical Healthy Living Practice 2 – Washing clothes and bedding :

Houses with LAUNDRY SERVICES working.




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Critical Healthy Living Practice 3 – Removing waste water safely :

Houses with a working TOILET.

Video - Hear from the statistician behind Housing for Health

Meet the Team Every project has a strong team

Local teams employed to date = 2500+

Every “Housing for Health” project employs local teams for the survey-fix stages. They are critical members of each project assisting with access, information, fixing and data collection. This is tough, grinding sometimes dirty work.

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Team Leaders

Ruth Williams // Environmental Health officer

“I’ve been an accredited Team Leader since 2013 working on over 20 Housing for Health projects.

I find Team Leading on projects a great way to meet and work with people from different communities, and to really understand what things are important to them.  Building trust in the community, working together to fix often simple things is really rewarding.”

Ruth is one of the many accredited Team Leaders who run HfH programs.

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Project Manager

Greg Norman // Architect

“I bring to HH work over 15 years of experience delivering building works in regional and remote Australia including NT, SA, NSW, QLD & TSI. This experience has given me a thorough understanding of the nature and complexity of delivering building projects in these areas. Our knowledge of building techniques brings an appreciation of the materials and fittings that are suitable for the various environments.”

Greg is one of the many accredited Project Managers who run HfH programs.


A Story An illustrated story as to why routine maintenance is essential to health

Sketch by Paul Pholeros depicting how a bathroom can fail to function.

Once upon a time there was a bathroom that failed to function in a two bedroom house, serving 3 families with 15 people….but this is not fairy tale, this is based on a true story.

A new cake of soap is opened over the basin, the wrapper falls into the basin, gets wet and blocks the waste pipe trap.

A box of laundry powder is used doing a load of washing. There is no high shelf so the box is rested on a small ledge between the laundry tub and wall. The vibration from the machine knocks the box into the laundry tub. During the spin cycle, water softens the packet and soaks into the soap powder. Pieces of wet cardboard and chunks of detergent sit in the tub and go into the tub waste pipe. (It is now difficult to wash a young child in the tub). Further loads of washing with soap suds and lint continue to block the waste pipe.

In the shower two nappies have been left to dry on a curtain rail near the small window. They fall to the ground and block the shower waste. The grading of the floor to the shower waste has never been quite right and there is always a pool of water near the comer of the shower.

The washing machine was bought second hand, the pump motor fails and to remove the dirty wash water requires tipping the machine on its side. Water floods the floor but the floor waste cannot cope with quantity of water. When the floor waste was being built, and the concrete slab poured, a small plug of concrete accidentally went down the open pipe. Ever since it can drain only a trickle of water, if any.

Someone coming to use the toilet finds that the roll of toilet paper has been soaked by the washing machine water. At the local shop toilet paper costs $5 a roll so they use an old piece of rag as toilet paper and flush the toilet. Not long after a young child flushes a soft drink can down the toilet. It seems to disappear. The next toilet user finds the toilet backing up and flooding the bathroom. (Assuming the blockage can be fixed it will still be difficult to clean up the mess given the faulty floor waste.)

Where does the water go if the blockages are not fixed?

Design Solutions Examples of Key Design Initiatives

Project Manager
The Yardmaster - designed to improve the function of outside living areas

Applied Research and Development projects have also been carried out to resolve recurrent issues found during Survey-fix projects that go beyond the routine daily fixes.

Data from the Housing for Health the Guide shows around a third of housing has no yard fencing, less than half have any sign of outdoor cooking facilities and 16% of houses have no verandahs. Yard areas contain a wide range of activities and service provision and these can contribute significantly in reducing crowding and improving health.

The solution was to produce a kit of parts able to be used on many houses to improve the usefulness of the yard area surrounding the house to achieve the 9 Healthy Living Practices.

This led to the development of a multipurpose services pole called the “Yardmaster.”

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