A recent study conducted in Sunderland in the north of England has shown that providing energy efficient boilers, double glazed windows, and additional insulation to those suffering from respiratory issues has resulted in a dramatic reduction in GP appointments, Accident & Emergency visits, and hospital admissions.
Even in this small study of 247 households, there were total savings of £20,000 over a six-month period for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), and other social and health related impacts including a 37% reduction in the number of households experiencing fuel poverty. Furthermore, because the installed boilers are energy efficient, savings will continue to benefit those who are at high risk who participated in the study.
The link between energy efficiency, renewables and positive social outcomes is certainly nothing new. However the explicit correlation of energy efficiency to health outcomes and monetary savings provide a good evidence base for investing in prevention and retrofits of existing households.
As opposed to the traditional medical prescription [Rx], this scheme benefits more than just the individual receiving it: the benefits would extend to all occupiers of the dwelling and to future tenants, delivering a more permanent and well-rounded health outcome.
In the UK,where the NHS is already strapped, an expanded scheme could help reduce congestion for General Practitioners and Accident & Emergencies as well as reducing costs for the NHS over the long term. When we look at this on a global scale we could see other positive impacts for sustainability being catalysed because of the link to health. For instance, in cities and countries with horrible air pollution, GPs could be more involved in the argument for cleaning up residential areas, providing both health and environmental outcomes.
Image credit: Quenten Hanson / Boiler / Flickr