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Throughout history, homelessness has been an aggravating factor of health disparities in the world (Smedley, Syme, 2000). Recent studies show considerable difference health outcomes between homeless populations and people with homes (Davis, Cook & Cohe, 2005; (Adler & Newma, 2001). In this paper explores some of the social, cultural, and political factors that propel disparities in health among the homeless, and policy frameworks that can serve to redress these disparities.
Factors leading to health disparities among the homeless
The social environments affect the health statuses of people both directly and indirectly because they influence behavior change. According to Husain (2002), children exposed to environmental stress factors such as gunshots were more vulnerable to asthmatic conditions compared to children living in safe homes.
In as a separate study, Geronimus (2001) suggested that total exposure to stress factors in residential environments had a significant impact on morbidity and disability. Therefore, homelessness exposes people to neighborhood environmental factors that limit their ability to remain physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy.
Ordinarily, homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked conditions that conspire to bring about severe health disparities. Studies indicate that since homeless people are low-income earners, they do not have the capacity to access adequate nutrition. Additional studies have suggested that the unavailability or inability of destitute populations to access supermarkets due to location disadvantages reduces the rate of fruit intake by about 30%.
This means that their income capacity coupled with lack of access to ready foodstuffs generates a change in behavior influencing their eating habits. On the other hand, low-income earning capacity is associated with risk factors, including physical inactivity, substance abuse, and high-fat dietary.
External contributors of desperate health statuses of homeless people remain eminent. Many studies cite constant misconceptions and prejudices accompanying the provision of healthcare services as phenomenal factor leading to health disparities across the world. Attitudes of healthcare professionals providing homecare for displaced and homeless people related to the trendy deterioration of health outcomes among the homeless.
Studies show that experiences of patient-professional relationship affects repeat healthcare visits of patients (Husain, 2002). Therefore, where patients perceive health professionals as prejudiced or less caring because of their perceived position in the society, they tend to shy from seeking medical attention at the time of need. This aggravates poor health outcomes among the affected populations.
Policy actions that will reduce disparities in health
There is the need to develop strategies geared toward ensuring access to quality and affordable basic education to the homeless in the society. According to Adler & Newman (2001), any strategy envisioned to address disparities in health outcomes must be able to address the grand differences between the morbidity and limited access to healthcare by these populations compared to their counterparts.
Strategic action to restructure care management, shelter modification is critical steps that can be pursued to correct the disparities in health outcomes. The government should design and implement policies that increase availability and access to adequate healthcare services to people termed as homeless.
Therefore, the government and other stakeholders in the health sector should create policies that grand these populations the opportunity to access high quality and coordinated public and private healthcare services (Smedley, Syme, 2000).
Stakeholders in the health sector to devise policies aimed at emphasizing the need for customized provision of healthcare to homeless people (Davis, Cook & Cohe, 2005). This will include ensuring stratification and segmentation of health services to meet the overall expectations of the people. This recommendation is founded on the fact that people who are disenfranchised such as homeless stay in places with no social, physical, and medical amenities (Adler & Newman, 2001; Husain, 2002).
The government and other private stakeholders in the healthcare sector must remain committed to ensuring change in practice and management of healthcare issues relating to homeless people. This should include introduction of curriculum that fosters positive attitude and care for disadvantaged individuals in the society. To cultivate the culture of positive perception of healthcare professionals toward homeless people can have far-reaching impact on the improving health outcomes of displaced and homeless people.
Adler, N. E., & Newman, K. (2001). Socioeconomic disparities in health: pathways and policies. Health Affairs, 21(2): 69.
Davis, R., Cook, D., & Cohe, L. (2005). A Community Resilience Approach to Reducing Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Health. American Journal of Public Health, 95(12).
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Geronimus, A. (2001). Understanding and eliminating racial inequalities in women’s health in the United States: the role of the weathering conceptual framework, American Medical Women’s Association, 56(4):135.
Husain, A. (2002). Psychosocial stressors of asthma in inner city schoolchildren, APHA poster presentation: Putting the Public Back into Public Health: 130th APHA Annual Meeting: Philadelphia.
Smedley, B. D., & Syme, S. L. (2000). Promoting Health: Intervention Strategies from Social and Behavioral Research. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.