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HEALTHY HOMES FOR HEALTHY LIVES: DOBSON

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People need healthy homes if they are to lead healthy lives, health secretary Frank Dobson said. Addressing the ann...
People need healthy homes if they are to lead healthy lives, health secretary Frank Dobson said. Addressing the annual meeting of the London region of the National Housing Federation.

Mr Dobson said: 'Everybody with a grain of sense knows that it's bad

for your health if you don't have somewhere decent to live. That's

why the new government is making sure that more new homes are built

for people who have nowhere decent to live. That's why we are

releasing the takings from the sale of council houses, so they can be

invested in building new homes and doing up old ones.

'As shadow environment secretary, that was a promise I wanted to see

in our election manifesto. It's a promise that was in our election

manifesto. It's a promise we are keeping. And as health secretary,

I'm delighted as it's an important part of our policy to improve the

health of people in our country.

'Of course, it's not the only aspect. Unemployment makes people ill.

That's one reason why we are getting people back to work. Low wages

make people ill. That's one reason why we are introducing a national

minimum wage. Crime and disorder make people ill. That's one reason

why we are cracking down on the yobs who make life intolerable for

their neighbours. Air pollution makes people ill. That's one reason

why we will be cutting traffic pollution.

'Right across government we are pushing through policies which will

improve the health of the nation. That will be good for the people

who won't fall ill so often, and it will be good for the rest of us -

firstly, because people who are fit and well can make a bigger

contribution to the ecomony. And secondly, because people being ill

costs the country a fortune. And not just to pay for the NHS. It

costs a fortune in lost production - 187 million working days a year,

according to the Confederation of British Industry.

'So providing decent homes will help. We also need to provide homes

which are warm in winter. We've cut the VAT on fuel, and we are

devoting some of the welfare to work and housing investment to

improve home energy efficiency. That will mean more old people can be

looked after at home safely rather than going into care. It means

more people who no longer need to be in hospital will be able to go

home safely. That all helps the people concerned, and it frees up

beds in the NHS. So everyone benefits.'

Mr Dobson said: 'Breaking down the barriers between the NHS and the

local social services doesn't just involve social services. It

involves housing as well. Everybody needs to work together, and

that's what we are arranging.

'My officials tell me it's hard to prove that better housing improves

people's health. That's because it's hard to separate out the impact

of housing on health from the impact of poverty, crime, and

joblessness and all the other things that harm the health of most

people who have nowhere decent to live. That's just another way of

saying we have to tackle the lot - and that's what we are doing. Not

just the healthdepartment, not just environment, transport and the

regions. The whole government.'

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