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Addressing Older Homeless Adult Health Concerns

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Rebecca T. Brown, MD, MPH, discusses the growing prevalence of older homeless adults, and what diseases community leaders and caregivers are combating most frequently in them.

Recent findings from a team of investigators at the University of California, San Francisco showed the rate of adult homeless Americans aged ≥50 years old has increased significantly in the last 3 decades.

Results from the prospective HOPE HOME cohort analysis conducted in the area of Oakland, CA, also showed that cardiovascular disease and cancer, along with cancer, are the leading causes of death among older homeless adults in the US.

In an interview with HCPLive regarding the findings, study author Rebecca T. Brown, MD, MPH, of the Division of Geriatrics in the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine, discussed the increasing burden of homelessness in the older US adult population and the need for better interpretation of their wellbeing.

“We don’t have perfect data, but it’s closer to 50% (are older),” Brown said. “This is a growing population, these older people experiencing homelessness, and there hasn’t been much research on them in general—including on mortality.”

Regarding the research, Brown expressed hope her team’s findings will “motivate policies to prevent and end homelessness” among this critical population. “Prevention is a major key...there’s all kinds of measures we can pursue to do that, and one is broadly affordable housing, which is a major problem in the US,” she added.

Brown added that primary care physicians and frontline caregivers may play a pivotal role in detecting the risk of homelessness among patients by addressing financial stability and housing security during check-ins. But the solutions to address the growing health issues associated with homelessness are varied, and warrant a diverse team of care providers.

“I think it’s a spectrum of services from prevention to housing for people who are already homeless,” Brown said.