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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recent Work

The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at UCSF provides non-biomedical social science and humanities perspectives on health, illness, and disease. The Department, which is comprised of a History of Health Sciences division and a Medical Anthropology division, is also home to the Center for Humanities and Health Sciences which aims to foster intellectual interaction among the UC health science communities and humanities.

Hollow Threats: Transnational Food and Beverage Companies' Use of International Agreements to Fight Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labeling in Mexico and Beyond.

(2022)

In October 2019, the Mexican government reformed its General Health Law thus establishing the warning approach to front-of-pack nutrition labeling (FOPNL), and in March 2020, modified its national standard, revamping its ineffective FOPNL, one preemptively developed by industry actors. Implementation is scheduled for later in 2020. However, the new regulation faces fierce opposition from transnational food and beverage companies (TFBCs), including Nestlé, Kellogg, Grupo Bimbo, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo through their trade associations, the National Manufacturers, American Bakers Associations, the Confederation of Industrial Chambers of Mexico and ConMéxico. Mexico, as a regional leader, could tip momentum in favor of FOPNL diffusion across Latin America. But the fate of the Mexican FOPNL and the region currently lies in this government's response to three threats of legal challenges by TFBCs, citing international laws and guidelines including the World Trade Organization (WTO), Codex Alimentarius, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)/US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In this perspective, we argue that these threats should not prevent Mexico or other countries from implementing evidence-informed policies, such as FOPNLs, that pursue legitimate public health objectives.

Cover page of Temporary stays with housed family and friends among older adults experiencing homelessness: Qualitative findings from the HOPE HOME study.

Temporary stays with housed family and friends among older adults experiencing homelessness: Qualitative findings from the HOPE HOME study.

(2022)

Background

The proportion of adults age 50 and older experiencing homelessness is growing. People at risk for homelessness may stay with family and friends to prevent homelessness. Moving in with housed family and friends is a strategy used to exit homelessness. Little is known about these stays with family and friends. This study examined the motivations for and challenges of older adults experiencing homelessness staying with or moving in with family or friends.

Methods

We purposively sampled 46 participants from the HOPE HOME study, a cohort of 350 community-recruited adults experiencing homelessness age ≥50 in Oakland, CA. Inclusion criteria included having stayed with housed family/friends for ≥1 nights in the prior 6 months. We sampled 19 family/friends who had hosted participants experiencing homelessness. We conducted separate, semi-structured interviews, summarized, memoed and coded data consistent using a grounded theory approach.

Results

Older adults experiencing homelessness reported primarily temporary stays. Motivations for stays on the part of participants included a need for environmental, physical, and emotional respite from homelessness. Both individuals experiencing homelessness and hosts cited the mutual benefits of stays. Barriers to stays included feelings of shame, concerns about burdening the hosts, and interpersonal conflicts between older adults experiencing homelessness and host participants.

Conclusions

There are potential opportunities and concerns surrounding temporary stays between older adults experiencing homelessness and their family or friends. Policy solutions should support the potential mutual benefits of temporary stays, while addressing interpersonal barriers to strengthen kinship and friendship networks and mediate the negative impacts of homelessness.

Cover page of Factors Associated with Incarceration in Older Adults Experiencing Homelessness: Results from the HOPE HOME Study.

Factors Associated with Incarceration in Older Adults Experiencing Homelessness: Results from the HOPE HOME Study.

(2022)

Background

In the US, the median age of adults experiencing homelessness and incarceration is increasing. Little is known about risk factors for incarceration among older adults experiencing homelessness. To develop targeted interventions, there is a need to understand their risk factors for incarceration.

Objective

To examine the prevalence and risk factors associated with incarceration in a cohort of older adults experiencing homelessness.

Design

Prospective, longitudinal cohort study with interviews every 6 months for a median of 5.8 years.

Participants

We recruited adults ≥50 years old and homeless at baseline (n=433) via population-based sampling.

Main measures

Our dependent variable was incident incarceration, defined as one night in jail or prison per 6-month follow-up period after study enrollment. Independent variables included socioeconomic status, social, health, housing, and prior criminal justice involvement.

Key results

Participants had a median age of 58 years and were predominantly men (75%) and Black (80%). Seventy percent had at least one chronic medical condition, 12% reported heavy drinking, and 38% endorsed moderate-severe use of cocaine, 8% of amphetamines, and 7% of opioids. At baseline, 84% reported a lifetime history of jail stays; 37% reported prior prison stays. During follow-up, 23% spent time in jail or prison. In multivariable models, factors associated with a higher risk of incarceration included the following: having 6 or more confidants (HR=2.13, 95% CI=1.2-3.7, p=0.007), remaining homeless (HR=1.72, 95% CI=1.1-2.8, p=0.02), heavy drinking (HR=2.05, 95% CI=1.4-3.0, p<0.001), moderate-severe amphetamine use (HR=1.89, 95% CI=1.2-3.0, p=0.006), and being on probation (HR=3.61, 95% CI=2.4-5.4, p<0.001) or parole (HR=3.02, 95% CI=1.5-5.9, p=0.001).

Conclusions

Older adults experiencing homelessness have a high risk of incarceration. There is a need for targeted interventions addressing substance use, homelessness, and reforming parole and probation in order to abate the high ongoing risk of incarceration among older adults experiencing homelessness.

COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Acceptability Among Homeless-Experienced Adults: Qualitative Data from Two Samples.

(2022)

Background

Homeless-experienced populations are at increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 due to their living environments and face an increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease due to underlying health conditions. Little is known about COVID-19 testing and vaccination acceptability among homeless-experienced populations.

Objective

To understand the facilitators and barriers to COVID-19 testing and vaccine acceptability among homeless-experienced adults.

Design

We conducted in-depth interviews with participants from July to October 2020. We purposively recruited participants from (1) a longitudinal cohort of homeless-experienced older adults in Oakland, CA (n=37) and (2) a convenience sample of people (n=57) during a mobile outreach COVID-19 testing event in San Francisco.

Participants

Adults with current or past experience of homelessness.

Approach

We asked participants about their experiences with and attitudes towards COVID-19 testing and their perceptions of COVID-19 vaccinations. We used participant observation techniques to document the interactions between testing teams and those approached for testing. We audio-recorded, transcribed, and content analyzed all interviews and identified major themes and subthemes.

Key results

Participants found incentivized COVID-19 testing administered in unsheltered settings and supported by community health outreach workers (CHOWs) to be acceptable. The majority of participants expressed a positive inclination toward vaccine acceptability, citing a desire to return to routine life and civic responsibility. Those who expressed hesitancy cited a desire to see trial data, concerns that vaccines included infectious materials, and mistrust of the government.

Conclusions

Participants expressed positive evaluations of the incentivized, mobile COVID-19 testing supported by CHOWs in unsheltered settings. The majority of participants expressed a positive inclination toward vaccination. Vaccine hesitancy concerns must be addressed when designing vaccine delivery strategies that overcome access challenges. Based on the successful implementation of COVID-19 testing, we recommend mobile delivery of vaccines using trusted CHOWs to address concerns and facilitate wider access to and uptake of the COVID vaccine.

Cover page of Structural competency and global health education.

Structural competency and global health education.

(2022)

Structural competency is a new curricular framework for training health professionals to recognise and respond to disease and its unequal distribution as the outcome of social structures, such as economic and legal systems, healthcare and taxation policies, and international institutions. While extensive global health research has linked social structures to the disproportionate burden of disease in the Global South, formal attempts to incorporate the structural competency framework into US-based global health education have not been described in the literature. This paper fills this gap by articulating five sub-competencies for structurally competent global health instruction. Authors drew on their experiences developing global health and structural competency curricula-and consulted relevant structural competency, global health, social science, social theory, and social determinants of health literatures. The five sub-competencies include: (1) Describe the role of social structures in producing and maintaining health inequities globally, (2) Identify the ways that structural inequalities are naturalised within the field of global health, (3) Discuss the impact of structures on the practice of global health, (4) Recognise structural interventions for addressing global health inequities, and (5) Apply the concept of structural humility in the context of global health.

Caregiving Needs Are Unmet for Many Older Homeless Adults: Findings from the HOPE HOME Study.

(2022)

The homeless population is aging, with early onset of cognitive and functional impairments. It is unclear whether older homeless adults receive caregiving assistance that could prevent long-term disability. We describe characteristics of older homeless-experienced adults with caregiving need and determine factors associated with having unmet need. Cross-sectional analysis of a longitudinal study, Health Outcomes in People Experiencing Homelessness in Older Middle Age (HOPE HOME), examining health, life course events, and functional status among older homeless-experienced (i.e., currently and recently homeless) adults. We recruited 350 homeless adults (July 2013-June 2014) and an additional 100 (August 2017 to July 2018) in Oakland, California; this study includes 303 participants who completed caregiving interviews. We defined caregiving need as difficulty with activities of daily living (ADLs), instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), falls, Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) score < 10, or Modified Mini-Mental State (3MS) exam impairment. We defined unmet need as having caregiving need and reporting not receiving caregiving assistance in the last 6 months. Using logistic regression, we analyzed associations between respondent characteristics and unmet caregiving need. Among 303 participants, the mean age was 61.3 ± 5.0 years; 73% were men and 82% were Black. Eighty-one percent had caregiving needs, and in 82% of those, their caregiving needs were unmet. Better self-rated health (AOR 2.13, CI [1.02-4.46], p = 0.04) and being a man (AOR 2.30, CI [1.12-4.69], p = 0.02) were associated with higher odds of unmet need. Moderate or high-risk substance use (AOR 0.47, CI [0.23, 0.94], p = 0.03) was associated with lower odds of unmet need. Older homeless-experienced adults have high prevalence of unmet caregiving need. Interventions that increase caregiving access for homeless-experienced individuals may help avoid poor health outcomes and costly long-term-care needs due to untreated disabilities.

Implementation of rapid and frequent SARS-CoV2 antigen testing and response in congregate homeless shelters.

(2022)

Background

People experiencing homelessness who live in congregate shelters are at high risk of SARS-CoV2 transmission and severe COVID-19. Current screening and response protocols using rRT-PCR in homeless shelters are expensive, require specialized staff and have delays in returning results and implementing responses.

Methods

We piloted a program to offer frequent, rapid antigen-based tests (BinaxNOW) to residents and staff of congregate-living shelters in San Francisco, California, from January 15th to February 19th, 2021. We used the Reach-Effectiveness-Adoption-Implementation-Maintenance (RE-AIM) framework to evaluate the implementation.

Results

Reach: We offered testing at ten of twelve eligible shelters. Shelter residents and staff had variable participation across shelters; approximately half of eligible individuals tested at least once; few tested consistently during the study. Effectiveness: 2.2% of participants tested positive. We identified three outbreaks, but none exceeded 5 cases. All BinaxNOW-positive participants were isolated or left the shelters. Adoption: We offered testing to all eligible participants within weeks of the project's initiation. Implementation: Adaptations made to increase reach and improve consistency were promptly implemented. Maintenance: San Francisco Department of Public Health expanded and maintained testing with minimal support after the end of the pilot.

Conclusion

Rapid and frequent antigen testing for SARS-CoV2 in homeless shelters is a viable alternative to rRT-PCR testing that can lead to immediate isolation of infectious individuals. Using the RE-AIM framework, we evaluated and adapted interventions to enable the expansion and maintenance of protocols.

Association of park drinking water source characteristics and water intake in San Francisco Bay Area parks

(2022)

Over half of U.S. adults visit parks regularly. Thus, it is important to understand how park drinking water sources affect visitors’ water consumption. In this cross-sectional study of 30 San Francisco Bay Area parks, 4 day-long direct observations of visitors’ drinking water and other beverages were conducted, along with audits of sugar-sweetened beverage access and drinking water source conditions, including flow, appeal, and obstructions. Outcomes were log-transformed to account for skewness, and results were analyzed using mixed-effects regression models to account for matching and clustering by park and observation day. A greater proportion of water sources in low-income parks were unappealing (57.14 vs. 25.00%, P ¼ 0.01) or in a poor condition (69.70 vs. 43.24%, P ¼ 0.03). A lower proportion of visitors drank water from park fountains that were unappealing (-31%), had poor flow (-22%), or had obstructions (-58%) than those without these conditions. Although only obstructions to the source and water intake were significantly related after adjustment, we observed important effects on water intake by water source appeal and flow. As park water source conditions contribute to water intake, cities should consider installing appealing, functional, and easy to access water sources in parks, particularly those in lower-income neighborhoods.

Cover page of A Brief Motivational Intervention Differentially Reduces Sugar-sweetened Beverage (SSB) Consumption.

A Brief Motivational Intervention Differentially Reduces Sugar-sweetened Beverage (SSB) Consumption.

(2021)

Background

Environmental and behavioral interventions hold promise to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage (SSBs) consumption.

Purpose

To test, among frequent SSB consumers, whether motivations to consume SSBs moderated the effects of (a) a workplace SSB sales ban (environmental intervention) alone, and (b) a "brief motivational intervention" (BI) in addition to the sales ban, on changes in SSB consumption.

Methods

We assessed whether (1) baseline motivations to consume SSBs (craving, psychological stress, or taste enjoyment) impacted changes in daily SSB consumption at 6-month follow-up among frequent (>12oz of SSBs/day) SSB consumers (N = 214); (2) participants randomized to the BI (n = 109) versus to the sales ban only (n = 105) reported greater reductions in SSB consumption at follow-up; and (3) motivations to consume SSBs moderated any changes in SSB consumption.

Results

In response to the sales ban alone, individuals with stronger SSB cravings (+1 SD) at baseline showed significantly smaller reductions in daily SSB consumption at 6-month follow-up relative to individuals with weaker (-1 SD) SSB cravings (2.5 oz vs. 22.5 oz), p < .01. Receiving the BI significantly increased reductions for those with stronger SSB cravings: Among individuals with stronger cravings, those who received the BI evidenced significantly greater reductions in daily SSB consumption [M(SE) = -19.2 (2.74) oz] than those who did not [M(SE) = -2.5 (2.3) oz, p < .001], a difference of 16.72 oz.

Conclusions

Frequent SSB consumers with stronger SSB cravings report minimal reductions in daily SSB consumption with a sales ban only, but report greater reductions if they also receive a motivational intervention. Future multilevel interventions for institutions should consider both environmental and individualized multi-level interventions.

Clinical trial information

NCT02585336.

Cover page of Persistent Homelessness and Violent Victimization Among Older Adults in the HOPE HOME Study.

Persistent Homelessness and Violent Victimization Among Older Adults in the HOPE HOME Study.

(2021)

The homeless population is aging; older homeless adults may be at high risk of experiencing violent victimization. To examine whether homelessness is independently associated with experiencing physical and sexual abuse, we recruited 350 adults, aged 50 and older in Oakland, California, who met criteria for homelessness between July 2013 and June 2014. We interviewed participants at 6-month intervals for 3 years in Oakland about key variables, including housing status. Using generalized estimating equations, we examined whether persistent homelessness in each follow-up period was independently associated with having experienced physical or sexual victimization, after adjusting for known risk factors. The majority of the cohort was men (77.4%) and Black American (79.7%). At baseline, 10.6% had experienced either physical or sexual victimization in the prior 6 months. At 18-month follow-up, 42% of the cohort remained homeless. In adjusted models, persistent homelessness was associated with twice the odds of victimization (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.01; 95% confidence interval [CI]: [1.41, 2.87]). Older homeless adults experience high rates of victimization. Re-entering housing reduces this risk. Policymakers should recognize exposure to victimization as a negative consequence of homelessness that may be preventable by housing.