Award for housing research ‘humbling’

University of Otago (Wellington) housing and health research programme leader Distinguished Prof...
University of Otago (Wellington) housing and health research programme leader Distinguished Prof Philippa Howden-Chapman and her research team have won the 2021 Rutherford Medal. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Two decades of ground-breaking research on the impact of housing interventions on residents’ health and wellbeing has won an Otago researcher and her team New Zealand’s top research award.

Distinguished Prof Philippa Howden-Chapman and researchers at the University of Otago (Wellington) He Kainga Oranga (Housing and Health Research Programme) have been awarded the 2021 Rutherford Medal.

Prof Philippa Howden-Chapman
Prof Philippa Howden-Chapman
It was awarded by the Royal Society Te Aparangi and comes with $100,000 in prize money from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Prof Howden-Chapman’s research showed how straightforward housing improvements to combat cold, damp and unsafe conditions could significantly reduce rates of infectious, respiratory and cardiovascular disease and deaths, particularly for children and older people.

The work has influenced innovations in government policy, including the introduction of the winter fuel payment and legislation requiring landlords to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) housing and health guidelines.

Prof Howden-Chapman said she was ‘‘delighted and deeply honoured’’ by the award.

‘‘Our multi-disciplinary research team is committed to carrying out the highest quality research in partnership with communities, to inform national and international housing policies.

‘‘To receive this prestigious award is very humbling.’’

She said the research team was now looking at the implementation of the WHO housing and health standards, and mapping the effectiveness of different types of public and community housing providers in achieving key wellbeing and health goals.

University of Otago research and enterprise deputy vice-chancellor Prof Richard Blaikie said the university was ‘‘exceptionally proud’’ of the group’s pinnacle achievement.

‘‘The impacts from the many programmes the team has been involved with have led to material changes in our national housing standards and regulatory framework, and have made positive impacts for many people and communities across a range of settings.

‘‘These have also demonstrably reduced the pressure on our public health system, and resulted in considerable healthcare savings.’’

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