Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Homelessness and Health Care are Interwoven—Let’s Take a Closer Look

Homelessness and Health Care are Interwoven—Let’s Take a Closer Look

Global Content Strategist

It's been a cruel winter nearly everywhere in the country this year. In an effort to stay warm and healthy, I have found myself layering clothes on and staying inside more than usual. Many people, however, are not as fortunate; far too many people in the United States do not have a place to call home. The homeless are particularly vulnerable at this time of year.

NCH-Winter -Emergency -Shelters


Examining the Link Between Homelessness and Health Care

Homelessness and health care are closely linked. Poor health may contribute to a person becoming homeless, and being homeless often leads to health problems.

Limited access to health care can further complicate the situation. According to the 2007 United States Census Bureau, 45.7 million Americans (15.3 percent of the population) do not have health insurance. Although rates of uninsured individuals differ by income level, these rates are disproportionately high for people who live below the poverty line or are homeless.

For low-income individuals and families, a lack of health care is often a cause of homelessness. Those with low incomes do not have the ability to pay for coverage on their own. A serious health issue can drive up expenses and lead to personal bankruptcy

Those who are already homeless are much more like likely to become ill. Yet, treatment and management of diseases is much more complicated among those without stable and adequate housing.

Health problems among the homeless may include:

  • Bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Outdoor-related issues (frostbite, immersion foot, and hypothermia)
  • Wound and skin infections

Many homeless people do not receive medical care. The most common barriers include:

  • Cost and lack of knowledge about where to get treated
  • Lack of identification and access to transportation
  • Nervousness about filling out forms and providing proper information
  • Embarrassment and self-consciousness about appearance

This results in the homeless getting most of their care in emergency rooms, which is inefficient and drives up health care costs. Furthermore," mortality rates among homeless and marginally housed people are substantially higher" than those of housed individuals.

So, as this never-ending winter drags on for many of us, realize the importance of a more widespread understanding of the correlation between health care and homelessness. Our involvement in local and state efforts could aid in reducing the incidence of homelessness and contribute to creating and maintaining healthier communities. Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) was established in Baltimore, Md., and now serves as a nationally recognized model for care delivery to the homeless population. To get involved, learn more about HCH's advocacy agenda and priorities, including expansion of health care and insurance coverage, increased availability of affordable housing, and improved access to emergency shelters and services.

Speak up and speak out for those unable to do so for themselves. Learn more about you can help on HCH's Ways to Help page.


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