An Unhealthy State
City Hall, Dublin, Ireland
Wednesday 23 september 2015
Partnership for Health Equity publishes report on Health of Homeless People and Launches New Website
Prof Anne MacFarlane, University of Limerick
The Partnership for Health Equity – a collaboration of HSE Social Inclusion/Primary Care Division, University of Limerick and North Dublin City GP Training Programme published Homelessness: An Unhealthy State on the 23 September at Dublin’s City Hall. This report describes the findings of research conducted into the health status, risk behaviours and service utilisation of homeless people in Dublin and Limerick cities.
Prof Anne MacFarlane of the University of Limerick introduced the work of the Partnership for Health Equity (PHE) saying “we aim to improve access to primary healthcare for marginalised groups, including homeless persons, drug users, travellers, migrants and others”.
Launching the report, Ms Laverne McGuinness, HSE Deputy Director General, affirmed the HSE’s commitment to working with others to strengthen services to improve access to care for homeless people. She said “some recommendations of this report are already being progressed by the HSE, including proactive engagement with the Mental Health Division around means of addressing the significant mental health needs of the cohort of homeless persons.” Ms McGuinness also noted the fact that the new families coming into homelessness are at risk of developing the poor health described by the report if homelessness becomes a long term experience. Mr John Hennessey, HSE National Director, Primary Care also spoke at the launch commenting that “the recommendations are a guide to the development of services for homeless people”
Research lead Dr Fiona O’Reilly (PHE) said “while much has been done already to improve care and access for homeless people, more needs to be done to remove poor health, particularly mental health and addiction, as a barrier to exiting homelessness. She stressed that ‘ultimately a move away from homelessness will improve health and wellbeing”
Commenting on the report Dr Austin O’Carroll from the Partnership for Health Equity said “This report demonstrates the scale of ill health, particularly where the mental health needs of homeless people are concerned. That 1 in 3 homeless persons report having attempted suicide, that more than half have a diagnosed mental health condition and nearly all have either a mental or physical health condition is a clear confirmation of the burden of ill health experienced by this vulnerable group of service users.” He welcomed the HSE’s continued commitment to strengthening health services for this vulnerable group.
In undertaking this study the Partnership surveyed 601 homeless people aged 18 or over in Dublin and Limerick cities in September 2013. The results show a predominantly male, Irish Roman Catholic homeless population with the majority of participants aged under 45 years and single. Family problems and drugs and alcohol addiction featured heavily as self reported reasons for homelessness.
Some of the reports Key Recommendations include:
The development of a national strategy for health care provision for homeless people
A review of appropriate mental health supports and services that are accessible to the homeless population
The urgent establishment of a coherent and specific stepwise intervention for homeless people in crisis in line with national suicide prevention guidelines.
Expansion of specialised primary care services on site in homeless accommodations
A review of the structure of the provision of methadone treatment and
tighter controls on prescription of benzodiazepines.
The new partnership website healthequity.ie was also launched at the event. Partnership for Health Equity research fellow Ms Suzanne Barror, presenting the website and online Health E Quality on line publication, said “through this website the partnership aims to raise awareness about health equity and encourage networking between interested health professionals, community organisations and academics”.
Those who contributed to the research were thanked including the DRHE, Limerick and Dublin City Councils, HSE personnel, and the many non-governmental organisations working in the homeless sector. The HSE, Safetynet and the HSE Social Inclusion directorate were acknowledged for funding.
The event was brought to an uplifting close with a performance from the High Hopes Choir https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbURlDHXwp8
(O’Reilly F, 20.10.15)
Dr Austin O’Carroll, North Dublin City GP Training
Back row: Anne MacFarlane, Tony Quilty, Patrick O'Donnell,
Front row: Suzanne Barror, Austin O'Carroll, Fiona O'Reilly, Laverne McGuinness, Diane Nurse, John Hennessy