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Homeless adults have significant unmet health care needs
Date:5/14/2010

The vast majority of homeless adults surveyed in a national study had trouble accessing at least one type of needed health care service in the preceding year, according to a study that will appear in the July American Journal of Public Health and is now available online. The report from investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program may be the first broad-based national study of factors related to unmet health needs among homeless people.

"Our study documents the substantial inability of homeless people to get the health care they need," says Travis Baggett, MD, of the MGH Department of Medicine, the study's lead author. "Almost three-quarters of respondents had at least one type of unmet health care need. Rates for specific services were six to ten times higher than those seen in the general population, and being uninsured was a consistent predictor of the inability to get needed care."

The researchers analyzed data from the 2003 Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) User Survey, which interviewed patients seen at 79 clinics nationwide that receive funding through the Federal HCH Program, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Almost 970 homeless adults who had received services at HCH-funded sites were interviewed about a range of topics, including whether they had trouble accessing five types of health services in the preceding year medical or surgical care, prescription medications, mental health care, eyeglasses and dental care.

While 73 percent of respondents reported at least one unmet health need, 49 percent reported two or more unmet needs. The breakdown regarding inability to access particular types of care was 32 percent for medical or surgical care, 36 percent for prescription medications, 21 percent for mental health care, 41 percent for eyeglasses, and 41 percent for dental care. The most frequently cited reasons were the inability
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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