Homelessness and health in Toronto

A dispatch from Nick Falvo, the winner of the undergraduate prize in the 2007 PEF essay contest. Nick works for Street Health in Toronto, and speaks to a newly released report:

In 1992, Street Health conducted a groundbreaking research study on homeless people’s health and access to health care. The updated 2007 study finds that the shocking rates of violence, rape and attempted suicide among homeless people have not changed. Over one third of homeless people had been physically assaulted, one in five women had been sexually assaulted or raped and one in ten of all survey respondents had attempted suicide in the last year. Meanwhile, many serious physical health conditions have become even more prevalent among homeless people and their access to health care has worsened. Diabetes is now three times higher among homeless people than it was in 1992. Rates of arthritis, asthma and high blood pressure are also significantly higher. The study also found that 28% of homeless people had been refused medical care in the past year because they did not have a health card, up from 7% in 1992.

The Street Health Report 2007 presents the findings of a survey of 368 homeless adults in Toronto last winter on their health status and access to health care. The report reveals a picture of homelessness in Toronto that demands immediate action and makes a series of targeted, feasible solutions that are aimed at improving the health of homeless people and ending homelessness.

Street Health is a community-based health care organization working with homeless and underhoused people in downtown Toronto. For this study, we have partnered with the Wellesley Institute, the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michaelís Hospital, the National Film Board of Canada and other leading community and research organizations.

The full report can be downloaded from our website at: http://www.streethealth.ca.

An article in the Toronto Star on September 19th on the report findings can be found at the link below:

In partnership with the National Film Board of Canada’s Filmmaker-in-Residence project, we have also created Street Health Stories, an eight minute short film which gives a human face and voice to the statistics in the Street Health 2007 Report (Director: Katerina Cizek, Producer: Gerry Flahive, NFB) that was recently aired on CBC News: Sunday. For more information, please see the film preview on our website: www.streethealth.ca or visit www.nfb.ca/streethealthstories.

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