Assessing Health Conditions and Medication Use Among the Homeless Community in Long Beach, California

J Res Pharm Pract. 2014 Apr;3(2):56-61. doi: 10.4103/2279-042X.137073.

Abstract

Objective: Persons experiencing homelessness are a vulnerable population and are at increased risk for morbidity and all-cause mortality compared to the general population. This study sought to evaluate medication use, regular physician visits, and identify health conditions among the homeless population of Long Beach, California.

Methods: Two "brown bag" medication review events were held at homeless shelters in the Long Beach area. Demographic information, medication use, and comorbid disease states were obtained through surveys.

Findings: Three-fourths of the cohort (95 participants) consisted of males, and the average age of participants was 48 years. Psychiatric disorders and cardiovascular disease were the most common disease states reported at 32% and 46%, respectively and so were medications used in treating these chronic diseases. Medication adherence was found to be a significant problem in this population, where more than 30% of patients were nonadherent to medications for chronic diseases. Furthermore, foot problems, hearing and vision difficulties constitute the most commonly overlooked health problems within the homeless population.

Conclusion: Based on this and other similar finding, we must accept that the homeless represent a vulnerable population, and that because of this fact, more programs should be focused at improving availability and access to health care among the homeless. Regarding the high number of reported health problems in the study, more studies are needed and more studies should incorporate screening for foot, hearing, and vision issues, both to increase awareness and to provide an opportunity for devising possible solutions to these highly preventable conditions.

Keywords: Health access; homeless; medication review.