The Health Impact Assessment, (HIA), carried out by academics at Sheffield Hallam and Warwick Universities, shows the benefits of linking housing and health policies at local level and is expected to provide invaluable information for housing chiefs up and down the country.
The study was carried out over a 10-month period in Sheffield, where Sheffield Homes is managing a near£700m Decent Homes programme - the largest in the UK - on behalf of Sheffield City Council.
Taking the council's then 50,000-plus housing stock as its baseline figure, the study found that upgrades of homes and estates across the city, affecting some 95,000 people, would result in:
--300 fewer accidents in the home per year, saving nearly£1m in-hospital care alone
--More than£1m saved per year in long-term NHS care
--Reduction in winter cold-related deaths among the elderly and other illnesses
--Potential savings for the NHS running into millions of pounds
--Over 1,000 fewer burglaries per year
--Mental health improved as a result of reduction in burglaries
--Reduced fuel poverty improving physical and mental health
The report expects further research and cost benefit analysis to pinpoint such housing investment savings to the NHS, more precisely.
The study is part of a series of Health Impact Assessments that the Sheffield First Health and Well Being Partnership is commissioning as part of its commitment to being a World Health Organisation Healthy City.
For this study, Sheffield Homes also teamed up with this partnership, which includes Sheffield City Council, Primary Health Care Trusts, Sheffield Hallam University and others.
Heading the research was leading academic, Geoff Green of Sheffield Hallam University's Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, in conjunction with the University of Warwick's Safe and Healthy Homes Research Unit.
Professor Green's team used national data and previous research findings to work out what impact Decent Homes will have in the city.
They compared current, local data on accidents in the home; health issues relating to cold, damp or poor living conditions and mental and physical harm resulting from aggravated burglaries, with national data.
Results not only showed how new kitchens, bathrooms, re-wiring, new heating systems and other adaptations will reduce hazards and accidents, but how new windows, doors and security measures will make people feel more secure - bringing immeasurable mental health benefits to tenants.
The study also praised Sheffield Council for having one of the most `dynamic strategic partnerships', in the country, saying it: `.goes further than most in integrating diverse policy and programme domains.'
'Improving the health and qualityof life for people has always been a key aim of the Decent Homes programme,' said Robert Kerslake, co-chair of the Sheffield First Health and Well-being Partnership and chief executive of Sheffield City Council.
'This study not only gives us tangible evidence that it will do just that, it has shown that investment in housing brings massive benefits to local authorities in terms of the quality of service they provide and the significant savings in heath care and cost to the NHS that it can bring.
'Accidents and illnesses are sadly a part of life and while Decent Homes cannot be the panacea for all ills and actually prevent them all, it's very encouraging to know what we're doing can reduce risks and bring people positive health benefits.
'We're extremely grateful to Professor Green and his team for this exceptionally high quality study, which not only confirms the current strength of Sheffield's local policy partnerships, but gives us valuable pointers as to how we can continue to improve our service delivery until the Decent Homes' programme is completed in 2010 and beyond.'
About Sheffield First Health and Well-being Partnership
--The Sheffield First Health and Well-being Partnership is part of the Sheffield First Partnership (the city's Local Strategic Partnership), which brings together public, private, voluntary, community and faith sectors to coordinate regeneration activity across the city and deliver our City Strategy.
--The Health and Well-being Partnership leads Sheffield's commitment, as a designated World Health Organisation Healthy City, to promoting health and well-being through a partnership approach that reduces inequalities, focuses on the determinants of health and involves local people. It is not a direct service delivery organisation but aims to work together through its partners to ensure that by 2010 Sheffield is one of the healthiest cities in the country and that communities from across the city can enjoy good health and well-being.
--Undertaking Health Impact Assessments on key polices and programs is a core part of the Partnership's approach to improving health and tackling health inequalities, ensuring Sheffield receives maximum health benefit form the major programs that are transforming the city and supporting the development of a healthy approach to policy and planning.
--Our partners are: Sheffield City Council, the Sheffield NHS Primary Care Trusts, Sheffield NHS Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust, Sheffield NHS Children's Hospital Trust, Sheffield NHS Care Trust, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Collage and the city's Voluntary Community and Faith Sector.
About Sheffield Homes
--Sheffield Homes was set up by Sheffield City Council in 2004 to manage the day-to day running of council homes and deliver a major programme of Government investment.
--We were the first organisation in the country to achieve the top 'three star' rating from the Audit Commission twice, placing our services amongst the best in the sector.
--We are working in partnership with Connaught Property Services Ltd; Keepmoat plc; Kier Sheffield LLP; Lovell Partnerships Ltd; and Mears Group plc, to bring all homes up to the Government's 'Decent Homes' standard by 2010, under a near£700m programme - the largest of its type in the country.
--We aim to work in partnership with Sheffield City Council and customers to provide excellent homes and services, in order to create clean, attractive neighbourhoods for communities in Sheffield.
--We are an 'Arms Length Management Organisation', a limited, not for profit company and wholly owned by Sheffield City Council.