Housing and Hope

Did you ever wonder why some blocks of flats were built on stilts, or why bungalows suddenly became popular, where and how people used to wash and dry their laundry, or when the first housing social documentary was filmed? Do you know anyone whose home cover225x225.jpeg– without adequate amenities and overcrowded –  was listed for clearance for years with promise of something better, or whose live was changed forever with a new council house? Have you heard stories about residents living with strangers in common lodging house and sleeping with bed bugs in dirty sheets, or tenants routinely living with rat infestations, whilst others were buying their first home in the London suburbs for £595, with space for their car?

Do you know some of these names: Le Courbusier, Elizabeth Denby, Wells Coates, the Salters of Bermondsey, Berthold Lubetkin, Sir John Tudor Walters, Dr Christopher Addison, Raymond Unwin, George Orwell, Michael Young – and wonder at why their legacy was so significant? Have you heard of these buildings: Isokon Lawn Road Flats, Embassy Flats, Kensal House, Quarry Hill, the Peckham Pioneer Centre, the Finsbury Health Centre – or even London Zoo’s penguin enclosure?

You will find some answers, and probably many more questions besides, in my new ebook: Housing and Hope: the Influence of the Interwar Years in England.

The aftermath of the First World War in England from 1918 was a time of major social and political change and new thinking about how we might live; it was about far more than just Homes for Heroes. Despite strenuous efforts by many pushing forward new ideas, thousands continued to endure dreadful housing conditions, with little hope that anything would ever change. Government sporadically intervened and new movements promoted progress.

Focusing on this period in history and where it was leading, this eBook considers the role of the sanitary inspectors in tackling poor housing, the development of suburbia and the radical new approach proposed by the modernists.  It draws from historic journals, literature, biography and film in its interactive and innovative approach to encourage a wider appreciating of what poor – and good – housing really means for people.

Lavishly illustrated with the author’s own photographs, this new publication shows how housing really can hold the key to a better life and that with decent housing, there comes hope.

Enjoy your read!



Clay’s Handbook of Environmental Health, 21st Edition just published

Stephen Battersby, editor of Clay’s (2017), writes:


One of the difficulties with editing a text book is that by the time it is published events, or new research may have overtaken what was written. Every five years or thereabouts a new edition of Clay’s Handbook of Environmental Health is published and the 21st Edition has just been published by Routledge.  Material for the book was submitted last October and it was not anticipated that by publication date the UK would have voted to leave the EU. The work covers all facets of environmental health and the basic knowledge that an environmental health practitioner would be expected to have and naturally reflects decisions made at the EU level but in any event it also reflects international thinking on environmental health issues.  While it might seem that the EU might be of no more than academic interest now, it may still have direct relevance depending on the negotiated terms of exit and the length of time such negotiations take.

Environmental health is not just about the law – it is too easy to become seen as merely and enforcer. As was clear at last week’s launch at the House of Commons, too often elected members think of EH in simplistic terms, such as it is a regulatory service, (or it is about housing conditions, or food safety, possibly pollution control or maybe health and safety). This might be managerially convenient (and possible cheaper when it comes to employing staff) but does not provide for better protection of public health.

As editor I have tried to encourage authors to bear in mind the shelf-life for the book. That is why they were asked to avoid being led by current legislation wherever that is possible. From the local authority perspective the law should be seen as a tool rather than dictate action.  We also know legislation including secondary legislation can change quickly and can lag behind knowledge of problems. Indeed legal standards can reflect the minimum that can be agreed and not the best for public health. So I asked contributors dealing with specific aspects to say why certain parameters exist and what the health issues are, rather than list specific standards.

Environmental health officers or practitioners, whichever term one prefers, is about being alert to risks to health and providing the warnings and practical solutions. Additionally there is and always has been an element of education to environmental health (communication skills are addressed in the book). Interventions to improve environmental quality so as to improve public health are “goods’ in their own right whether or not supported by legislation.  Clay’s endeavours to provide the foundations for an EHP and to give sufficient information to allow the reader to make informed decisions and provide the information to others at the policy level.

A work such as Clay’s is a first point of reference and with over 40 contributors provides a source of information not only to students and others at whatever stage of their career (including a specific chapter on research and getting published). Every chapter includes not only useful references, but lists of sources of further information to help colleagues. It is as comprehensive as a works such as this can be, although inevitably someone will be able to spot gaps, but hopefully these are small.

As a work it highlights the breadth of environmental health and the areas of interest beyond the technical with which environmental health practitioners should have some familiarity. There are also two major themes that run through the book namely climate change and health inequity and how EHPs can contribute to addressing these issues.

For more information including the e-book options see https://www.routledge.com/Clays-Handbook-of-Environmental-Health-21st-Edition/Battersby/p/book/9780415716710   and https://www.routledge.com/buildingconstruction/posts/10024

MA Funding Opportunities

This may be of interest:

“I am very glad to announce a funding opportunity for MA research on home at Queen Mary, University of London for 2016/17:

Walter Oldershaw Awards (eight awards of £3000 each; deadline 5pm on Wednesday 10 August) across the range of MA/MSc programmes in Geography at QMUL, including the following collaborative research opportunities on MA Geography (full-time or part-time):

  •   with the Geffrye Museum of the Home via Centre for Studies of Home on past and present homes, including research on home, migration and the city.
  •      with Eastside Community Heritage on community heritage, identity, migration and urban change.

Please follow these links to our webpages to find out more about the Walter Oldershaw Awards

The Isle of Sheppey – a unique place

Edwin Chadwick said of Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent:

Screenshot“The surprise is, not so much that one man here and there reels home drunk, and a savage … into filthy and diseased houses … The process of the physical deterioration of workmen and their families who are drawn into insanitary conditions about places of work, is illustrated by the Government works at Sheerness.”

With such a naval tradition, it’s surprising that Sheppey hasn’t attracted greater attention. But the island’s history also reflects its status as a small island, the changing nature of the English seaside resort, gender roles in history, decline and regeneration, the epidemiologic transition and much more besides.

We have been lucky enough to focus on its public health history and produce Occasional Paper No. 3. It has been a fascinating but enormous task. To obtain a copy, click here. We hope you will enjoy reading this and maybe be inspired to investigate more yourself!

Jill, David and Jim

Guest Blog from Canada!

We are delighted – through UKEHRNet – to have made links with environmental health colleagues in Canada who are doing some fascinating work. Here, Karen Rideout (BCCDC and NCCEH) and Dianne Oickle (NCCDH) introduce their work.

I hope you enjoy exploring the links, Jill.


Integrating health equity and environmental public health practice in Canada

A number of resources from environmental public health colleagues in Canada are now available.

The National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health (NCCEH) and the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH) collaborated on a qualitative study that explored the role of environmental public health practitioners in addressing the social determinants of health (SDH) and health equity related issues that may present as barriers to compliance with health protection regulations. Results and recommendations from the study were released in a report titled Equity in environmental health practice:  Findings of a pilot study.

A new section on the BC Centre for Disease Control website is dedicated to Health Equity and Environmental Health. These new pages provide health equity and SDH resources for environmental health practitioners. It is the new online home for the Through an Equity Lens: A New Look at Environmental Health project, and also includes links to external resources.

Current highlights include:

The Health Equity and Environmental Health web pages will be updated regularly as new resources are posted. Resources about facilitators and barriers to integrating an equity lens in practice, policy levers for equity-oriented environmental health practice, and a framework for action will be posted in summer 2016.

NCCDH also produced a series of blogs highlighting examples of how environmental public health practitioners have addressed SDH and health equity in their work.  Health equity and environmental public health practice: Stories from public health inspectors shares three practice stories representing real actions that can be taken at a different levels of environmental public health practice.


The new ‘nomads’?

People often ask me what I think the most important housing and health issue is. It’s a hard question to answer – there are multiple and complex stressors – but the issue of secure tenure (or lack of…) and the instability it causes in peoples lives has to be a priority and for so many reasons.

This new research from Shelter explores the issues facing ‘nearly nomadic renters’ and what it really means for people, most particularly those with children.

Let’s not forget that the Marmot Review’s main policy objectives to tackle key health inequalities include giving every child the best start in life; and to enable children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives.

Is it really too much to expect that everyone’s house can also be their long term, secure home?