Health officials in Canterbury are contacting hundreds of people admitted to hospital for cold-related illnesses to see if they need help heating their homes.
Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) has identified more than 500 people admitted to hospital at least twice during the last two winters for respiratory illness, says Carolyn Gullery, health board general manager of planning and funding.
It will contact people with high health needs it believed would benefit from assistance with heating or insulating their homes, she says.
Christchurch Hospital Emergency Medical Specialist Professor Mike Ardagh says cold and damp homes cause a range of illnesses and aggravate existing conditions.
"Winter is always a bad time for respiratory illnesses and cold homes can make these problems worse.
"Add in the chances of getting a cold or flu and this has a direct impact on the number of people who are seen at the Emergency Department."
The new programme, which involves several local health and government agencies working together to help people pay for the insulation or heating, will be managed by Partnership Health Canterbury.
Its chief executive, Jane Cartwright, says it is a great opportunity to reduce the effect of damp homes on health and the number of times a person goes to hospital with respiratory illnesses.