Author(s): J. Teare, A. Mathee, N. Naicker, C. Swanepoel, T. Kapwata, et al.

Source: Annals of Global Health . 2020; 86(1): 91, 1–13


Background: Shelter and safe housing is a basic human need that brings about a sense of ownership, selfsufficiency, and citizenship. Millions of people around the world live in inadequate dwellings in unhealthy areas, such as urban slums. These dwellings may experience indoor temperatures that impact inhabitants’ health. Indoor dwelling temperatures vary depending on many factors including geographic location, such as inland versus coastal. In an era of climate change, understanding how dwelling characteristics influence indoor temperature is important, especially in low- and middle-income countries, to protect health.

Objective: To assess indoor temperature in low-cost dwellings located in a coastal setting in relation to dwelling characteristics.

Methods: Indoor temperature and relative humidity loggers were installed from 1 June 2017 to 15 May 2018 in 50 dwellings in two settlements in a coastal town on the east coast of South Africa. Ambient outdoor temperature data were obtained from the national weather service, indoor temperature data were converted into apparent temperature, and heat index calculations were made to consider possible heat-health risks. A household questionnaire and dwelling observation assessment were administered. A mixed-effects linear regression model was constructed to consider the impact of dwelling characteristics on indoor apparent temperature.

Findings: Among 17 dwellings with all data sets, indoor temperatures were consistently higher than, and well correlated (r = 0.92) with outdoor temperatures. Average differences in indoor and outdoor temperatures were about 4°C, with statistically significant differences in percentage difference of indoor/outdoor between seasons (p < 0.001). Heat indices for indoor temperatures were exceeded mostly in summer, thereby posing possible health risks. Dwellings with cement floors were statistically significantly cooler than any other floor type across all seasons.

Conclusions: Low-cost dwellings experienced temperatures indoors higher than outdoor temperatures in part due to floor type. These results help inform interventions that consider housing and human health (n = 289).