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U.K. trial pays heating bills as remedy for chronic illnesses

by Ozva Admin
U.K. trial pays heating bills as remedy for chronic illnesses


LONDON — Every winter, the symptoms of millions of people around the world living with chronic illnesses are exacerbated by falling temperatures, in some cases even killing them. Now a small trial in Britain is looking to prevent some of those deaths with an alternative remedy: paying vulnerable people to heat their homes during the winter.

The prescription for a warm homea collaboration of local government officials, the National Health Service and a non-profit organization, will cover home heating costs for more than 1,000 people living with cold-sensitive chronic conditions in low-income homes across the country, hoping that keep them healthier.

The trial will run from December to March and builds on the success of a smaller pilot program in Gloucestershire, in the west of England, this year. The organizers hope to reduce the overall risk of hospitalization for vulnerable people and will also test whether paying their heating bills reduces costs for healthcare providers by avoiding costly hospitalizations.

Spiraling Global Energy Costs and Inflation in other areas have added to financial pressures on households in Britain, Europe, the USA and beyond, raising concerns for many that they will not be able to adequately heat their homes. UK government put a legal cap on home energy costs this year, but the broader economic outlook remains dire, with the Bank of England warning that the country is headed for the longest recession in modern history.

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More than half of all excess deaths recorded in Britain during a typical winter they are caused by respiratory and circulatory diseases, which are known to worsen in colder temperatures, according to the government-run Office for National Statistics. The latest figures from the bureau estimate that there were 28,300 excess deaths in the winter of 2019 to 2020.

“The goal is really to help them stay well, because we know that if they have a respiratory condition and they’re exposed to cold temperatures at home, they’re likely to get worse,” said Shantini Paranjothy, a doctor from Aberdeen, Scotland, who is involved in the trial. . “We are trying to keep them warm and safe at home and prevent them from needing hospitalization.”

Those involved in the trial will have their average home heating costs covered by the program or receive electric space heaters, as well as the funds to keep them running, Paranjothy said. Participants will be selected by local health authorities; the complete list of this year’s participants has not been finalized.

Symptoms of conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often worsen during the winter, when the likelihood of more respiratory problems and chest infections also increases, Paranjothy said.

“If you can’t heat your house and have trouble breathing,” he said, “things will get worse. That’s what we know from pathology of how these diseases progress.”

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World Health Organization, Advising people with chronic illnesses taking extra care to stay warm in the winter, says cold air can inflame the lungs, inhibit circulation and increase the risk of respiratory conditions. “Cold also induces vasoconstriction, which causes stress on the circulatory system that can lead to cardiovascular effects,” the guide says.

Paranjothy advises patients with chronic conditions made worse by cold to keep the temperature of occupied rooms in their homes between 64 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius) during the winter, but many Britons cannot afford to do it. Temperatures drop to an average low of just over 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) in the winter, according to the UK weather officewith the north of the country experiencing much colder conditions.

Michelle Davis, 38, has multiple health problems, including COPD, which are exacerbated in the winter when she can’t afford to heat her home adequately, qualifying her to take part in the Gloucestershire trial program next year. past. The “prescription” trial, which she hopes to rejoin, allowed her to warm her home comfortably, eased her cough and chest pain, and contributed to her overall physical and mental health last winter, she said.

“It meant I didn’t end up in the hospital,” he said, explaining how in 2020, when he couldn’t afford to keep the temperature in his house at a comfortable level, his chronic illnesses flared and he spent time in hospital with pneumonia and flu.

“It’s agonizing when it’s cold,” he said. “When it’s cold and wet, my joints become paralyzed. They become very painful. My bones feel like they’re on fire.” In past winters, she spent a lot of time in bed trying to stay warm, she explained, afraid to let her two children play outside because she worried they wouldn’t get warm after her.

“I didn’t realize exactly what a difference having the heating on for an extra hour or two would make,” he said. “She just made me able to be a mother for a while.”

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In addition to saving lives, Energy Systems Catapult, the nonprofit organization funding the program, hopes it can reduce the broader financial cost imposed on health services.

The NHS in England alone spends around $1.05 billion each year to care for patients living in cold homes each winter, the group said in a statement, citing a 2021 study by the Building Research Establishment group. Long-standing pressures on Britain’s healthcare system have been made worse by skyrocketing inflation, which has squeezed public funding from the NHS.

“If we buy energy that people need but can’t afford, they can stay warm at home and stay out of the hospital. That would direct support where it’s needed, save money overall and take pressure off the health service,” said Rose Chard, program leader for Energy Systems Catapult. statement.

Rising energy costs are expected to make the Warm Home Prescription program more expensive to run this winter, but Davis, who hopes to join the new program, says this is also what makes “prescription” essential. to help keep your family warm and healthy. Without it, his two-bedroom duplex’s energy bills will top $300 a month, he said, an increase of $108 from last winter.

“In the long run, it will cost a few hundred in a few months. But overnight hospital stay costs the government much more,” she said.

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