What is Housing for Health? (1)

What is Health Hardware?

“Health hardware” is a term first used by Dr Fred Hollows to describe the physical equipment needed to give people access to the health giving services of housing. For example, to wash a young child the “health hardware” needed may include a water supply, pumps, tanks, pipes, valves, taps, hot water system, tub and drainage pipes.

VIDEO: Brian Doolan, CEO Fred Hollows Foundation, speaks about the history and importance of “health hardware”

How, where and what's? (7)

What does the 1-5 star rating at the top of each section mean?

star system

The stars sum up the information available, research completed and general confidence in the content of the section.

One star indicates that the issue may be an emerging one, not much is currently known about the problem or the effectiveness of the solutions.

Five stars indicate the issue is well described and a range of solutions have been tested and proven successful.

If you have  literature, field work or any evidence to support or refute the current star rating please send it to the Guide.  Go to the Guide TOOLBOX and then Add or Edit and Item.

Where can I get a list of Quality Control items to check a house?

Go to the TOOLBOX and select your preferred information.

What is the “local team checklist”?

This is a list you can access via the TOOLBOX for all maintenance items that relate to local maintenance teams.

You can select any or all of the items within the Guide into a checklist which you can either download or print and use on any house or project.

How can I suggest an edit or addition to the Guide?

The Guide was assembled by a diverse group of people with many years of practical experience working with housing and health. The Guide originated from real data from over 7,500 houses around Australia. The aim is to expand the Guide slowly to become relevant to a broad range of environments around the world, if not within the Guide then it will point to solutions in other similar publications local to your place of work.

So… be patient and help invigorate and develop the Guide into a collection of important universal health principles with directions to robust local solutions.

The Guide is evidence based and any changes proposed will be reviewed against the submitted evidence.

Minor typographical or formatting errors should be corrected promptly, within 2 weeks.

Photos, drawings, videos, stories that are considered better examples of work than in the current Guide, will be reviewed within 4 weeks.

A review of more involved content edits will occur every 6 months and a major review every 2 years.

To add to or edit the guide please fill out this form.

How often does Healthabitat review additions to the guide through the website?

Additions to the Guide  will be reviewed twice a year. For a full review schedule see Add or Edit an Item. Organisations and individuals who propose substantial additions will be contacted regarding their proposals.

About Housing for Health: the guide (7)

What is Housing for Health: the guide?

The Guide links health to housing and the living environment.

The Guide helps those funding, planning, designing, building and maintaining living environments to improve the health of people.

The Guide provides evidence based information to designers, builders/tradespeople, property managers, owners, tenants, environmental health officers, government policy makers, politicians and health professionals.

VIDEO: Dr. Lilon Bandler – Sydney Medical School Speaking about how the Guide and housing data gives a place to start improving health.

Is the Guide different to the National Indigenous Housing Guide ?

Yes they are different, as described below, but the safety and health principles behind both are the same.

The National Indigenous Housing Guide

  • was a Federal Government publication and was initiated in 1999 by Department of Social Services Federal Government Minister Jocelyn Newman, with the first edition
  • contained no housing data in its first edition
  • contained the first housing data in its second edition, which was released in 2003
  • contained data on 3,600 houses in its third edition, which was released in 2007 and   was due for renewal in 2009
  • had the endorsement of all Australian governments (3rd edition)
  • was available in hard copy format and a pdf online version

Housing for Health – the Guide

  • is a Healthabitat publication and was initiated by Healthabitat at the end of 2012 when after a long wait the promised fourth edition of The National Indigenous Housing Guide had not emerged
  • was given its first exposure (online) on the 2nd of October 2103
  • contains housing data from over 7,500 houses
  • is an interactive, online production
  • encourages ongoing input and development by those using the Guide, with major reviews occurring every 2 years
  • does not carry the endorsement of any Australian government
  • has a national (Australian) focus but intends gradually to incorporate international housing and health information and design guidelines.

Why do we need another guide?

This is a very good question! Australia already has a National Building Code, Australian Standards as well as Indigenous Housing Guides and local government regulations.

But it is important to note that with all these regulations, the function of Indigenous houses in Australia is still very poor and over 90% of the faults found relate to lack of maintenance and poor initial construction. So perhaps just reading them and complying with the current standards would be a great start to improving the living environment.

The Guide does not override or conflict with any of the national standards but attempts to show a greater level of detail as to why houses should function for health. It gives areas that need to be improved based on data describing existing failures.

For example, the national Australian Standard will prescribe hot water system safety requirements and the Building Code will require hot water be provided to a house and be tempered at some points within the house to prevent scalding. There will be no advice regarding the volumes of hot water required per person and the impact of overcrowded houses, the impact of poor water quality on systems or hot water system economy – all essential to ensure a child is washed and enjoys a health benefit from the house. This is the role of the Guide.

VIDEO: Paul Pholeros – Director, Healthabitat Speaking about linking data with people to improve the living environment and why the guide is needed.


Who can use Housing for Health the guide?

The Guide is for anyone who works in the building industry, government, environmental health or the health sector and responsible for the living environments of others.

Also visit who should use the guide for more information.

Does the guide only apply to remote Indigenous housing?


Whilst the Housing for Health methodology was developed, tested and improved in remote Indigenous communities in Australia, the principles that inform the Guide have been tested  from suburban to remote communities around Australia.

Healthabitat has also demonstrated that the guiding principles presented in the Guide are relevant to many places around the world and have been proven to work.

Does the guide only apply to Australia?

The guiding health priorities, the Healthy Living Practices, , have been developed in Australia with Indigenous communities but Healthabitat believes they have a more universal application. Parts of the Guide clearly apply to specific Australian environments and house types, but the principles behind the work have relevance outside Australia and have been tested in places as different as rural villages in  Nepal to densely populated areas of New York City, USA.

VIDEO: Dr. Lilon Bandler – Sydney Medical School Speaking on the relevance of the Guide locally and internationally 

What is Housing for Health?

Housing for Health projects improve the health of people, particularly children 0-5 years of age, by ensuring they have access to safe and well functioning housing, and an improved living environment.

The work is based on safety and the nine Healthy Living Practices. These Healthy Living Practices, and their order of priority, were first developed in 1985 to describe the functioning hardware needed in a house to allow access to healthy living. Fix work starts on the first day of every project and at least 75% of the project team are local community people.

VIDEO: Brian Doolan, CEO Fred Hollows Foundation, on the origins and meaning of “no survey without service”