A Comparative Analysis of Serious Injury and Illness Among Homeless and Housed Low Income Residents of New York City

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Abstract

Background:

Delivery of effective primary, secondary, and tertiary injury prevention in homeless populations is complex and could be greatly aided by an improved understanding of contributing factors.

Methods:

Injury and health conditions were examined for hospitalized New York City homeless persons (n = 326,073) and low socioeconomic status (SES) housed residents (n = 1,202,622) using 2000 to 2002 New York statewide hospital discharge data (Statewide Program and Research Cooperative System). Age- and gender-adjusted odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated within age groups of 0.1 years to 9 years, 10 years to 19 years, 20 years to 64 years, and ≥65 years, with low SES housed as the comparison group.

Results:

Comorbid conditions, injury, and injury mechanisms varied by age, gender, race or ethnicity, and housing status. Odds of unintentional injury in homeless versus low SES housed were higher in younger children aged 0 years to 9 years (1.34, 1.27–1.42), adults (1.13, 1.09–1.18), and elderly (1.25, 1.20–1.30). Falls were increased by 30% in children, 14% in adolescents or teenagers, and 47% in the elderly. More than one-quarter (26.9%) of fall hospitalizations in homeless children younger than 5 years were due to falls from furniture with more than threefold differences observed in both 3 year and 4 year olds (p = 0.0001). Several comorbid conditions with potential to complicate injury and postinjury care were increased in homeless including nutritional deficiencies, infections, alcohol and drug use, and mental disorders.

Conclusions:

Although homelessness presents unique, highly complex social and health issues that tend to overshadow the need for and the value of injury prevention, this study highlights potentially fruitful areas for primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention.

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