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Housing and inequalities in health
  1. P Howden-Chapman
  1. Department of Public Health, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, PO Box 7343, Main Street, Newtown, Wellington South, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to:
 Associate Professor P Howden-Chapman;

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Housing policies are again emerging as a key way of reducing inequalities in health

The existence of debiltating inequalities in health across social groups has become the first law of public health. People privileged by more education, income, the dominant ethnicity, higher status jobs, and housing standards, have better health than those with less education and income, minority ethnicity, lower status jobs, and poorer housing. The elimination of these inequalities may be the public health equivalent of the search for the holy grail, but research programmes are now paying dividends by highlighting effective public policies to reduce these health inequalities.1–3

Focusing on housing and neighbourhood improvements have historically been key policy instruments to improve population health. Drawing on literature about the work environment, James Dunn in this issue links the material and psychosocial aspects of housing and neighbourhood on health in an innovative way.4 In a random telephone survey of Vancouver households he looks at several important aspects of housing. Firstly, what the house materially represents for the householders, in terms of the stream of financial services it provides—shelter from the storm and a nest egg. Secondly, the social meaning of …

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