Homelessness and Health in Canada: Research Lessons and Priorities

This article was for prepared for an international think-tank on reducing health disparities and promoting equity for vulnerable populations. Its purposes are to provide an overview of homelessness research and to stimulate discussion on strategic directions for research. We identified studies on homelessness, with an emphasis on Canadian research. Studies were grouped by focus and design under the following topics: the scope of homelessness, the health status of homeless persons, interventions to reduce homelessness and improve health, and strategic directions for future research. Key issues include the definition of homelessness, the scope of homelessness, its heterogeneity, and competing explanations of homelessness. Homeless people suffer from higher levels of disease and the causal pathways linking homelessness and poor health are complex. Efforts to reduce homelessness and improve health have included biomedical, educational, environmental, and policy strategies. Significant research gaps and opportunities exist in these areas. Strategic research will require stakeholder and community engagement, and more rigorous methods. Priorities include achievement of consensus on measuring homelessness, health status of the homeless, development of research infrastructure, and ensuring that future initiatives can be evaluated for effectiveness. [abstract]

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Canadian journal of public health