Background: There is limited epidemiological research that provides insight into the complex web of causative and moderating factors that links housing conditions to a variety of poor health outcomes. This study explores the relationship between housing conditions (with a primary focus on the functional state of infrastructure) and common childhood illness in remote Australian Aboriginal communities for the purpose of informing development of housing interventions to improve child health.
Methods: Hierarchical multi-level analysis of association between carer report of common childhood illnesses and functional and hygienic state of housing infrastructure, socio-economic, psychosocial and health related behaviours using baseline survey data from a housing intervention study.
Results: Multivariate analysis showed a strong independent association between report of respiratory infection and overall functional condition of the house (Odds Ratio (OR) 3.00; 95%CI 1.36-6.63), but no significant association between report of other illnesses and the overall functional condition or the functional condition of infrastructure required for specific healthy living practices. Associations between report of child illness and secondary explanatory variables which showed an OR of 2 or more included: for skin infection--evidence of poor temperature control in the house (OR 3.25; 95%CI 1.06-9.94), evidence of pests and vermin in the house (OR 2.88; 95%CI 1.25-6.60); for respiratory infection--breastfeeding in infancy (OR 0.27; 95%CI 0.14-0.49); for diarrhoea/vomiting--hygienic state of food preparation and storage areas (OR 2.10; 95%CI 1.10-4.00); for ear infection--child care attendance (OR 2.25; 95%CI 1.26-3.99).
Conclusion: These findings add to other evidence that building programs need to be supported by a range of other social and behavioural interventions for potential health gains to be more fully realised.