Lack of research hampering efforts to provide health services to homeless people

December 01, 2005

There are at least 300 million homeless people in both Europe and the USA. The largest survey of homeless people in the UK, which was released last week by the London-based charity St Mungo's, found that two-thirds of the 1491 homeless people surveyed complained of health problems. Diseases among the homeless are usually multiple, states the editorial. Feet, teeth, and skin are regular casualties of living rough, and infections are frequent. Mental health problems are reported in up to half of those who sleep rough, which contributes to a 25-fold greater risk of suicide. Life expectancy for the homeless averages just 42 years.

While commending health-care workers who have adapted to the needs of the homeless by bringing mobile services to the kerbside and clinics to hostels, The Lancet comments: "The paucity of validated research involving homeless people hampers efforts to expand services and improve uptake. This lack of data must be addressed if homeless people are to share the same health advances enjoyed by society in general. With warnings of a severe winter ahead, the challenge is not to greet homelessness with heartlessness, but to recognise that health is part of the problem, and so can become part of the solution."
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Lancet

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