Household Health

Household Health is a service aiming to improve the health environment, social cohesion and feeling of safety in flatshares. With an App and a Health Cabinet, the tenants can discuss common actions and prepare for health emergencies.
Alessandro Paone
Pinja Piipponen
How does COVID-19 impact shared living?
How might we increase the feeling of safety and agreement of common actions in the most affordable living option in high-density areas such as London? This project explores the challenging reality of sharing a home with strangers through the lens of behavioural and community health focusing on infectious diseases that don’t yet have a cure.
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Flatshares are shared health environments
There are 206,000 flatshares in London, housing non-related adults mainly in their twenties. The difficulty of setting agreed co-living rules for cleaning and hygiene has always been there, but the topic has been pushed to the surface together with the fear of getting infected with COVID-19. Tenants have realised their home is as safe as the least cautious tenant. When sharing a home, you have a massive impact on the health of the others and vice versa, which we call shared health. Before taking action to protect the household health, there needs to be an agreement as to what to do as a collective, but having that discussion is difficult. In one house there is often a mix of stress levels, cultures, personal health risks and a lack of open discussion culture. No one wants to be the nag of the house or risk creating a negative atmosphere.

Support for everyday co-living and emergency preparedness

Household Health supports tenants in discussing and agreeing on shared health actions. The discussion topics for the Health Dialogue were co-created together with tenants, designed to prompt topics people hope to cover during the first weeks of living together. When searching for a new home, the room ad and a viewing with an agent introduces the customer to the service. The Health Cabinet acts as a touchpoint for onboarding with a QR code to download the application. The app connects the flatmates under one profile with a code and prompts them to schedule their first Health Dialogue. While familiarising themselves with the cabinet, the new tenant can have a look at the door, housing localised health information including nearest NHS services as well as guidelines on who to call in case of an emergency. In their everyday life, they are supported with guidelines for cleaning and potential illness scenarios.

Service system - Kits from agencies to tenants

The Household Health Kit is provided for tenants by their agencies free of cost; it is important that the push for the discussion comes from an external and trusted party. The agencies offer Household Health as a 3rd party service making the business model B2B2C. The health information and advice is provided in collaboration with Public Health England and the NHS, to ensure the tenants have a trusted one stop shop for guidelines for shared living. As a secondary revenue stream, Household Health partners with services offering cleaning products and emergency kit packages which the tenants can order together and split costs in the app.
“Sharing these basic things makes you feel safer. You know what to expect.”
We built working prototypes to test and iterate the end-to-end experience. The tenants stated that the experience was enjoyable and fun, and the prompted questions covered important topics. The facilitation for co-living was seen as an important and untouched area and knowing there is support available would help the tenants feel safer when moving in with strangers. The landlords we talked to didn’t think it was their responsibility to think about what happens between the tenants, but were open to providing them the means to show they are supported. The agencies acknowledged the market value and saw the service as a way of showing they care for their tenants.
Impact and future scenarios
Our cities will double in size by 2050, and it is predicted we will also experience more pandemics; the housing industry needs to react to ensure flat-sharing is a safe option. We predict the service could improve the home atmosphere, reducing early terminations and affecting mental health. Being prepared to deal with emergencies would reduce costs for the NHS, as well as infections and allergic reactions. To get evidence, more prototyping should be done with tenants to test broader desirability, how easily they come to a decision and how well they follow the agreement. We predict the properties offering the service would have more applicants attracting more safety-seeking tenants. The collected data could be used to attract like-minded tenants to avoid clashing opinions in the future. Based on the feedback we have received on the digital facilitation; we believe the system could be expanded to a discussion platform. The method could be implemented for any kind of discussion topic, which might be difficult to approach.
special thanks
We would like to thank everyone who collaborated with us during these exceptional times: Antimicrobial resistance experts at WHO for the inspiration Viadynamics for the steering and support Helix Centre for the guidance and direction Public Health England for the collaboration session and input Estate agencies and landlords for the valuable feedback and insight All interview and prototyping participants for their time and shared experiences Our tutor Neil Gridley for all the support and mentoring
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