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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding the Causes Health Disparities among the Homeless


800,000 Americans are currently homeless (Wen, Hudak, & Hwang, 2007). Homeless individuals suffer from a myriad of preventable and chronic physical and mental health issues creating a health disparity among the homeless in comparison to general health population. This literature review defines the term “episode of care” and suggests that understanding the episode of care is an effective health intervention that may alleviate the apparent health disparities among the homeless. The episode of care consists of healthcare access, utilization, and the typical treatment plan for the homeless. This paper examines three major barriers that hinder the homeless from access and utilization of healthcare which are Socio Economic Status (SES), u­­­ncompassionate Stereotype Threat and the comorbidity of mental health and substance abuse among the homeless. The implication of this paper were the gaps that were not addressed due to the general dearth of research on the subject. Future research should investigate how the Affordable Care Act (2010) impacts the health of the homeless since its aim is to provide health insurance for the entire US population.

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