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Understanding the link between energy hardship and respiratory illness

Respiratory disease is a serious problem in New Zealand. It’s responsible for 1 in 10 hospital stays, it’s the third leading cause of death and it affects more than 700,000 people across New Zealand. 

In this blog post, we’re going to explore the link between energy hardship and respiratory illness and provide you with some tips you can use to instantly improve the health of your home. 

Respiratory illness in New Zealand

The rates of respiratory disease are higher in more socioeconomically deprived areas. As part of the Pay it Forward Programme - a joint initiative between Pulse Energy and our customers that provides support to families experiencing energy hardship - we talked to a group of customers who had experienced energy hardship in the past six months. 

 We found that almost half (45 percent) of these families had a household member who was suffering from asthma or a respiratory-related illness - significantly higher than the national average of 17 percent. 

“Health inequity is a huge problem in New Zealand, and the respiratory disease rates reported in the Pulse Energy survey are sadly not that surprising,” said David Barclay of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ).

How household income affects health

A 2018 report by ARFNZ found that respiratory disease prevalence, hospitalisation and mortality were all significantly higher in more socioeconomically deprived areas. On top of that, “a recent study by the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland showed that asthma hospital admission rates for children from families living in the most deprived areas were, on average, 2.8 times higher than in the least deprived areas,” said Barclay. 

So, what’s responsible for this inequality?

A lot of it comes down to environmental factors. Your living environment - where you live, the food you eat, your access to healthcare, and so on. These can have a major impact on just about every aspect of your health, including your respiratory system. Living in a damp house, for example, can exacerbate asthma symptoms, while children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to develop lower respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia.

There are many factors that can potentially increase the risk of respiratory illness or amplify symptoms, such as:

  • Cold and/or damp housing
  • Living in crowded conditions
  • Smoking or smoke exposure
  • Inability to access healthcare services
  • Not knowing when or how to seek medical assistance
  • Ineffective use of asthma medicines
  • Poor nutrition 

How to improve the health of your home

Health inequality is an extremely complex issue. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to make your home and your family healthier and to reduce the risk of respiratory illness. 

  • Insulate your home: Effective insulation is critical for reducing heat loss and preventing draughts, which can help you maintain a warmer, healthier indoor temperature. You may even be eligible for the Warmer Kiwi Homes Grant.
  • Ventilate your home: Good ventilation plays a key role in removing moisture and maintaining air quality. This can be as simple as regularly opening your doors and windows or investing in decent extractor fans. 
  • Stay dry: Maintaining a dry living environment helps reduce the risk of mould growth. 
  • Keep warm: A warm home is vital for your comfort and health. Some heating options are healthier and more cost-effective than others, so it’s important to think carefully before committing to a heating system. 
  • Manage asthma triggers: It’s important to stay on top of asthma triggers in order to reduce the risk of a flare-up. Common triggers include dust mites, mould, pets, pollen and smoke.
  • Become smoke free: Smoking and being exposed to second hand smoke can lead to a variety of health conditions. 

For more information, check out the ARFNZ website. As a Bronze Sponsor of the ARFNZ, we’re committed to positively impacting the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis living with a respiratory illness.

Giving back to the community 

Here at Pulse Energy, we’re passionate about doing what we can for the people who need it most. This winter, we’re donating blankets to families in need, while continuing to give back to our community and alleviate energy hardship through our award-winning Pay it Forward Programme. 

Want to join us in making New Zealand a better place to live? Click here for more information and find out how you can contribute to the Pay it Forward Programme.

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