Achieving compliance with pool fencing legislation in New Zealand: a survey of regulatory authorities.
OBJECTIVES: To identify the status of compliance and enforcement of New Zealand's Fencing of Swimming Pools Act (FOSP Act), 10 years after its introduction, and to identify methods for improving both compliance with the act and the process of enforcement. METHODS: A postal questionnaire was sent to all 74 authorities in New Zealand in which they were asked questions about their enforcement of the FOSP Act. Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with 12 authorities to supplement the data obtained in the postal survey. RESULTS: Based on responses to the survey, it was estimated that there are over 59,000 domestic swimming pools in New Zealand, giving rates of 46 pools/1000 dwellings and 16 pools/1000 persons. The authorities reported that 44% of pools complied with the act, and a further 4% had been granted exemptions. Nineteen per cent of pools were reported to not comply with the act, and the compliance status of a further 33% was not known, or not stated by the authority. Only 9% of authorities had procedures for locating and inspecting pools, while 28% had a programme of reinspection to ensure that pools continued to comply. Pool owner resistance was considered to be the main difficulty with enforcing the act, and nearly half of the authorities believed publicity or education was needed to overcome these barriers. Fifty two per cent of authorities had publicized the act during the 12 months preceding the survey. CONCLUSIONS: Due to ambiguities within the legislation, and differing levels of commitment by authorities to locate pools and monitor compliance, compliance with the FOSP Act is not consistent nationally. If the act were less ambiguous, there would be greater consistency and more enforcement. (+info)
America's affordable housing crisis: a contract unfulfilled.
For many poor Americans, having a decent home and suitable living environment remains a dream. This lack of adequate housing is not only a burden for many of the poor, but it is harmful to the larger society as well, because of the adverse effects of inadequate housing on public health. Not only is the failure to provide adequate housing shortsighted from a policy perspective, but it is also a failure to live up to societal obligations. There is a societal obligation to meet the housing needs of everyone, including the most disadvantaged. Housing assistance must become a federally-funded entitlement. (+info)
Housing and health: time again for public health action.
Poor housing conditions are associated with a wide range of health conditions, including respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental health. Addressing housing issues offers public health practitioners an opportunity to address an important social determinant of health. Public health has long been involved in housing issues. In the 19th century, health officials targeted poor sanitation, crowding, and inadequate ventilation to reduce infectious diseases as well as fire hazards to decrease injuries. Today, public health departments can employ multiple strategies to improve housing, such as developing and enforcing housing guidelines and codes, implementing "Healthy Homes" programs to improve indoor environmental quality, assessing housing conditions, and advocating for healthy, affordable housing. Now is the time for public health to create healthier homes by confronting substandard housing. (+info)
Fire fatalities among children: an analysis across Philadelphia's census tracts.
OBJECTIVE: This study investigates the possible causes of high levels of residential fire deaths to children younger than 15 years of age in Philadelphia from 1989 to 2000. METHODS: The authors analyzed 246 deaths from 146 residential fires by census tract in Philadelphia using both individual level data and aggregate level data drawn from the records of the Fire Marshall's Office. Death rates by age and sex were calculated using the 1990 Census. Data on fires from official records were combined with aggregate level data by census tract from the 1990 Census and analyzed using logistic regression. Newspaper articles on the fires analyzed were used to identify residences with possible fire code violations. The authors used data from the Philadelphia Bureau of Licenses and Inspections to provide evidence of code violations. RESULTS: The statistically significant variables that resulted from the logistic regression were census tracts in the highest quartile for low income households, census tracts in the highest quartile for single-parent households with children younger than age 18, census tracts in the highest quartile for houses built before 1939, and the number of children younger than 15 years of age in a census tract. CONCLUSION: Population characteristics by census tract are useful in identifying risk factors for residential fire deaths of children. Census tracts identified as at highest risk can provide fire prevention units with opportunities to take preventative measures such as the distribution of smoke detectors, and the education of residents about the dangers of careless smoking and planning for the rescue of children in the event of a fire. (+info)
The built environment and its relationship to the public's health: the legal framework.
The built environment significantly affects the public's health. This was most obvious when infectious disease was the primary public health threat during the industrial revolution; unsanitary conditions and overcrowded urban areas facilitated the spread of infection. However, even today in the age of chronic diseases there remains an important connection between population health and the built environment. Physical spaces can expose people to toxins or pollutants and influence lifestyles that contribute to diabetes, coronary vascular disease, and asthma. Public health advocates can help shape the design of cities and suburbs in ways that improve public health, but to do so effectively they need to understand the legal framework. This article reviews the connection between public health and the built environment and then describes the legal pathways for improving the design of our built environment. (+info)
Childhood injuries due to falls from apartment balconies and windows.
BACKGROUND: Falls from balconies and windows are an important cause of childhood injury. This study investigated the circumstances around such falls and attempted to identify possible measures for their prevention. POPULATION: Children <15 years living in Dallas County, Texas. METHODS: Each child treated because of a fall from a building in 1997-99 had information about the injury collected, and a parent was contacted to obtain further information. For apartment related falls, an attempt was made to visit the apartment to measure windows and balcony rails. RESULTS: Ninety eight children were injured in falls from buildings during the three year period; 39 (40%) were admitted to hospital. Seventy five of the falls (77%) involved apartments, and most occurred around noon or evening meal times. Among apartment falls, 39 (52%) fell from windows, 34 (45%) from balconies, and two (3%) from unknown sites. For more than two thirds of balcony related falls, the child fell from between the balcony rails, all of which were spaced more than 4 inches (10 cm) apart. On-site measurement showed the rails were an average of 7.5 inches (19 cm) apart; all of these apartments were built before 1984. For more than two thirds of window related falls, the window was situated within 2 feet (61 cm) of the floor. CONCLUSIONS: Two factors are important in falls from apartment windows and balconies: balcony rails more than 4 inches (10 cm) apart, and windows positioned low to the floor. Current building codes do not apply to older apartments, where most of these falls occurred. Nevertheless, these factors may be amenable to environmental modifications that may prevent most of these falls. (+info)
Exposure to lead and length of time needed to make homes lead-safe for young children.
OBJECTIVES: We determined the length of time needed to make homes lead-safe in a population of children aged 0 to 6 years with blood lead levels (BLLs) of 20 micrograms per deciliter (mug/dL) or greater. Reducing this time would reduce children's exposure to lead. METHODS: Data came from the Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program's comprehensive blood lead surveillance system. Analysis was restricted to children whose first BLL test value during 1996-1999 was between 20 and 40 mug/dL and for whom housing intervention data were available (n=382). RESULTS: The median length of time required to make a home lead-safe was 465 days. Only 18% of children lived in homes that were made lead-safe within 6 months; 45% lived in homes requiring more than 18 months to be lead-safe. CONCLUSIONS: Efforts are needed to reduce the time it takes to make a home lead-safe. Although abatement orders always include time limits, improved compliance with the orders must be enforced. Greater emphasis should be placed on securing lead-safe or lead-free housing for families, thus reducing lead exposure. (+info)
Current state of the science: health effects and indoor environmental quality.
Our understanding of the relationship between human health and the indoor environment continues to evolve. Previous research on health and indoor environments has tended to concentrate on discrete pollutant sources and exposures and on specific disease processes. Recently, efforts have been made to characterize more fully the complex interactions between the health of occupants and the interior spaces they inhabit. In this article we review recent advances in source characterization, exposure assessment, health effects associated with indoor exposures, and intervention research related to indoor environments. Advances in source characterization include a better understanding of how chemicals are transported and processed within spaces and the role that other factors such as lighting and building design may play in determining health. Efforts are under way to improve our ability to measure exposures, but this remains a challenge, particularly for biological agents. Researchers are also examining the effects of multiple exposures as well as the effects of exposures on vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. In addition, a number of investigators are also studying the effects of modifying building design, materials, and operations on occupant health. Identification of research priorities should include input from building designers, operators, and the public health community. (+info)