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Better homes, better neighbourhoods
  1. Hilary Thomson1,
  2. Mark Petticrew1,
  3. David Morrison2
  1. 1MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Public Health, NHS Greater Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 H Thomson
 MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, UK; hilary{at}msoc.mrc.gla.ac.uk

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Interventions to improve housing are often part of broader area-regeneration activities. A programme of housing-led regeneration in a post-industrial village in West Dunbartonshire, at the foot of Loch Lomond in Scotland, involved housing association tenants moving from ex-council flats reported to have damp problems (fig 1), to newly built houses with private gardens (fig 2). Not only was the fabric of the new houses better, but also the neighbourhood regeneration involved general environmental improvements. These included aesthetic improvements, provision of children’s play areas and better street design. Levels of housing density were reduced by housing people in houses rather than in flats, and although the flats were not overcrowded, there was a small but statistically significant reduction in house occupancy (persons per room) when residents moved to their new house. A paper in this issue of JECH reports the findings of a prospective controlled study that evaluated the effects on health 1 year after residents moved to a new house: no marked health effects were reported.1

Figure 1

 Ex-council flats with reported damp problems.

Figure 2

 Newly built houses with private gardens and wider environmental improvements.

The potential for positive health effects is often used as a rationale for public investment in neighbourhood regeneration.2,3 However, positive health effects should not be assumed to be the inevitable result of housing improvement.4 The results from our study raise questions about the complexity of the intervention and about the diverse mechanisms through which housing improvement may affect health.1

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