Substance use can be a barrier to stable housing for homeless persons with mental disorders. We examined DSM-IV symptoms among homeless adults (N = 497), comparing those who reported daily substance use (DSU) with non-daily substance users. Multivariable linear regression modeling was used to test the independent association between DSU and symptoms using the Colorado Symptom Index total score. DSU was independently associated with higher symptoms (beta = 3.67, 95 % CI 1.55–5.77) adjusting for homelessness history, age, gender, ethnicity, education, marital status, and mental disorder sub-type (adjusted R2 = 0.24). We observed a higher prevalence of DSU in our sample than has been previously reported in a Housing First intervention. DSU was also independently associated with more DSM-IV symptomatology. We have an opportunity to observe this cohort longitudinally and examine if there are changes in substance use based on treatment assignment and commensurate changes in housing stability, community integration, health status, and quality of life.
Substance use; Addiction; Homelessness; Housing first; Mental health; DSM-IV
Individuals with mental illnesses are overrepresented among the homeless. Housing First (HF) has been shown to promote positive outcomes in this population. However, key questions remain unresolved, including: how to match support services to client needs, the benefits of housing in scattered sites versus single congregate building, and the effectiveness of HF with individuals actively using substances. The present study aimed to recruit two samples of homeless mentally ill participants who differed in the complexity of their needs. Study details, including recruitment, randomization, and follow-up, are presented.
Eligibility was based on homeless status and current mental disorder. Participants were classified as either moderate needs (MN) or high needs (HN). Those with MN were randomized to HF with Intensive Case Management (HF-ICM) or usual care. Those with HN were randomized to HF with Assertive Community Treatment (HF-ACT), congregate housing with support, or usual care. Participants were interviewed every 3 months for 2 years. Separate consent was sought to access administrative data.
Participants met eligibility for either MN (n = 200) or HN (n = 297) and were randomized accordingly. Both samples were primarily male and white. Compared to participants designated MN, HN participants had higher rates of hospitalization for psychiatric reasons prior to randomization, were younger at the time of recruitment, younger when first homeless, more likely to meet criteria for substance dependence, and less likely to have completed high school. Across all study arms, between 92% and 100% of participants were followed over 24 months post-randomization. Minimal significant differences were found between study arms following randomization. 438 participants (88%) provided consent to access administrative data.
The study successfully recruited participants meeting criteria for homelessness and current mental disorder. Both MN and HN groups had high rates of substance dependence, suicidality, and physical illness. Randomization resulted in no meaningful detectable differences between study arms.
Current Controlled Trials: ISRCTN57595077 (Vancouver at Home study: Housing First plus Assertive Community Treatment versus congregate housing plus supports versus treatment as usual) and ISRCTN66721740 (Vancouver At Home study: Housing First plus Intensive Case Management versus treatment as usual).
Housing First; Homelessness; Mental illness; Concurrent disorders
We examined the prevalence of substance use disorders among homeless and vulnerably housed persons in three Canadian cities and its association with unmet health care needs and access to addiction treatment using baseline data from the Health and Housing in Transition Study.
In 2009, 1191 homeless and vulnerably housed persons were recruited in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa, Canada. Interviewer administered questionnaires collected data on socio-demographics, housing history, chronic health conditions, mental health diagnoses, problematic drug use (DAST-10≥6), problematic alcohol use (AUDIT≥20), unmet physical and mental health care needs, addiction treatment in the past 12 months. Three multiple logistic regression models were fit to examine the independent association of substance use with unmet physical health care need, unmet mental health care need, and addiction treatment.
Substance use was highly prevalent, with over half (53%) screening positive for the DAST-10 and 38% screening positive for the AUDIT. Problematic drug use was 29%, problematic alcohol use was lower at 16% and 7% had both problematic drug and alcohol use. In multiple regression models for unmet need, we found that problematic drug use was independently associated with unmet physical (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.95; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.43–2.64) and unmet mental (AOR 3.06; 95% CI 2.17–4.30) health care needs. Problematic alcohol use was not associated with unmet health care needs. Among those with problematic substance use, problematic drug use was associated with a greater likelihood of accessing addiction treatment compared to those with problematic alcohol use alone (AOR 2.32; 95% CI 1.18–4.54).
Problematic drug use among homeless and vulnerably housed individuals was associated with having unmet health care needs and accessing addiction treatment. Strategies to provide comprehensive health services including addiction treatment should be developed and integrated within community supported models of care.
Homelessness and mental illness have a strong association with public disorder and criminality. Experimental evidence indicates that Housing First (HF) increases housing stability and perceived choice among those experiencing chronic homelessness and mental disorders. HF is also associated with lower residential costs than common alternative approaches. Few studies have examined the effect of HF on criminal behavior.
Individuals meeting criteria for homelessness and a current mental disorder were randomized to one of three conditions treatment as usual (reference); scattered site HF; and congregate HF. Administrative data concerning justice system events were linked in order to study prior histories of offending and to test the relationship between housing status and offending following randomization for up to two years.
The majority of the sample (67%) was involved with the justice system, with a mean of 8.07 convictions per person in the ten years prior to recruitment. The most common category of crime was “property offences” (mean = 4.09). Following randomization, the scattered site HF condition was associated with significantly lower numbers of sentences than treatment as usual (Adjusted IRR = 0.29; 95% CI 0.12–0.72). Congregate HF was associated with a marginally significant reduction in sentences compared to treatment as usual (Adjusted IRR = 0.55; 95% CI: 0.26–1.14).
This study is the first randomized controlled trial to demonstrate benefits of HF among a homeless sample with mental illness in the domain of public safety and crime. Our sample was frequently involved with the justice system, with great personal and societal costs. Further implementation of HF is strongly indicated, particularly in the scattered site format. Research examining interdependencies between housing, health, and the justice system is indicated.
Stroke has emerged as a significant and escalating health problem for Asian populations. We compared risk factors, quality of care and risk of death or recurrent stroke in South Asian, East Asian and White patients with acute ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.
Retrospective analysis was performed on consecutive patients with ischemic stroke or intracerebral hemorrhage admitted to 12 stroke centers in Ontario, Canada (July 2003-March 2008) and included in the Registry of the Canadian Stroke Network database. The database was linked to population-based administrative databases to determine one-year risk of death or recurrent stroke.
The study included 253 South Asian, 513 East Asian and 8231 White patients. East Asian patients were more likely to present with intracerebral hemorrhage (30%) compared to South Asian (17%) or White patients (15%) (p<0.001). Time from stroke to hospital arrival was similarly poor with delays >2 hours for more than two thirds of patients in all ethnic groups. Processes of stroke care, including thrombolysis, diagnostic imaging, antithrombotic medications, and rehabilitation services were similar among ethnic groups. Risk of death or recurrent stroke at one year after ischemic stroke was similar for patients who were White (27.6%), East Asian (24.7%, aHR 0.97, 95% CI 0.78-1.21 vs. White), or South Asian (21.9%, aHR 0.91, 95% CI 0.67-1.24 vs. White). Although risk of death or recurrent stroke at one year after intracerebral hemorrhage was higher in East Asian (35.5%) and White patients (47.9%) compared to South Asian patients (30.2%) (p=0.002), these differences disappeared after adjustment for age, sex, stroke severity and comorbid conditions (aHR 0.89 [0.67-1.19] for East Asian vs White and 0.99 [0.54-1.81] for South Asian vs. White).
After stratification by stroke type, stroke care and outcomes are similar across ethnic groups in Ontario. Enhanced health promotion is needed to reduce delays to hospital for all ethnic groups.
An estimated $100 billion is lost to ‘waste’ in biomedical research globally, annually, much of which comes from the poor quality of published research. One area of waste involves bias in reporting research, which compromises the usability of published reports. In response, there has been an upsurge in interest and research in the scientific process of writing, editing, peer reviewing, and publishing (that is, journalology) of biomedical research. One reason for bias in reporting and the problem of unusable reports could be due to authors lacking knowledge or engaging in questionable practices while designing, conducting, or reporting their research. Another might be that the peer review process for journal publication has serious flaws, including possibly being ineffective, and having poorly trained and poorly motivated reviewers. Similarly, many journal editors have limited knowledge related to publication ethics. This can ultimately have a negative impact on the healthcare system. There have been repeated calls for better, more numerous training opportunities in writing for publication, peer review, and publishing. However, little research has taken stock of journalology training opportunities or evaluations of their effectiveness.
We will conduct a systematic review to synthesize studies that evaluate the effectiveness of training programs in journalology. A comprehensive three-phase search approach will be employed to identify evaluations of training opportunities, involving: 1) forward-searching using the Scopus citation database, 2) a search of the MEDLINE In-Process and Non-Indexed Citations, MEDLINE, Embase, ERIC, and PsycINFO databases, as well as the databases of the Cochrane Library, and 3) a grey literature search.
This project aims to provide evidence to help guide the journalological training of authors, peer reviewers, and editors. While there is ample evidence that many members of these groups are not getting the necessary training needed to excel at their respective journalology-related tasks, little is known about the characteristics of existing training opportunities, including their effectiveness. The proposed systematic review will provide evidence regarding the effectiveness of training, therefore giving potential trainees, course designers, and decision-makers evidence to help inform their choices and policies regarding the merits of specific training opportunities or types of training.
Training; Writing for publication; Journalology; Author; Journal editor; Manuscript peer review; Publishing
Homeless persons experience a high burden of health problems; yet, they face significant barriers in accessing health care. Less is known about unmet needs for care among vulnerably housed persons who live in poor-quality or temporary housing and are at high risk of becoming homeless. The objectives of this study were to examine the prevalence of and factors associated with unmet needs for health care in a population-based sample of homeless and vulnerably housed adults in three major cities within a universal health insurance system.
Participants were recruited at shelters, meal programs, community health centers, drop-in centers, rooming houses, and single room occupancy hotels in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa, Canada, throughout 2009. Baseline interviews elicited demographic characteristics, health status, and barriers to health care. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with self-reported unmet needs for health care in the past 12 months.
Of the 1,181 participants included in the analysis, 445 (37%) reported unmet needs. In adjusted analyses, factors associated with a greater odds of reporting unmet needs were having employment in the past 12 months (AOR = 1.40, 95% CI = 1.03–1.91) and having ≥3 chronic health conditions (AOR = 2.17, 95% CI = 1.24–3.79). Having higher health-related quality of life (AOR = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.09–0.53), improved mental (AOR = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.96–0.98) or physical health (AOR = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.96–0.99), and having a primary care provider (AOR = 0.63, 95% CI = 0.46–0.85) decreased the odds of reporting unmet needs.
Homeless and vulnerably housed adults have a similar likelihood of experiencing unmet health care needs. Strategies to improve access to primary care and reduce barriers to accessing care in these populations are needed.
Access to care; Homelessness; Housing; Primary care; Public health policy
The aim of this study was to identify what is most important to the quality of life (QoL) of those who experience homelessness by directly soliciting the views of homeless and hard-to-house Canadians themselves. These individuals live within a unique social context that differs considerably from that of the general population. To understand the life areas that are most important to them, it is critical to have direct input from target populations of homeless and hard-to-house persons.
Focus groups were conducted with 140 individuals aged 15 to 73 years who were homeless or hard-to-house to explore the circumstances in which they were living and to capture what they find to be important and relevant domains of QoL. Participants were recruited in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver. Content analysis was used to analyze the data.
Six major content themes emerged: Health/health care; Living conditions; Financial situation; Employment situation; Relationships; and Recreational and leisure activities. These themes were linked to broader concepts that included having choices, stability, respect, and the same rights as other members of society.
These findings not only aid our understanding of QoL in this group, but may be used to develop measures that capture QoL in this population and help programs and policies become more effective in improving the life situation for persons who are homeless and hard-to-house.
Quality of life themes in Canadian adults and street youth who are homeless or hard-to-house: A multi-site focus group study.
Homeless; Quality of life; Hard-to-house
Reporting of health research is often inadequate and incomplete. Complete and transparent reporting is imperative to enable readers to assess the validity of research findings for use in healthcare and policy decision-making. To this end, many guidelines, aimed at improving the quality of health research reports, have been developed for reporting a variety of research types. Despite efforts, many reporting guidelines are underused. In order to increase their uptake, evidence of their effectiveness is important and will provide authors, peer reviewers and editors with an important resource for use and implementation of pertinent guidance. The objective of this study was to assess whether endorsement of reporting guidelines by journals influences the completeness of reporting of health studies.
Guidelines providing a minimum set of items to guide authors in reporting a specific type of research, developed with explicit methodology, and using a consensus process will be identified from an earlier systematic review and from the EQUATOR (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research) Network’s reporting guidelines library. MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Methodology Register and Scopus will be searched for evaluations of those reporting guidelines; relevant evaluations from the recently conducted CONSORT systematic review will also be included. Single data extraction with 10% verification of study characteristics, 20% of outcomes and complete verification of aspects of study validity will be carried out. We will include evaluations of reporting guidelines that assess the completeness of reporting: (1) before and after journal endorsement, and/or (2) between endorsing and non-endorsing journals. For a given guideline, analyses will be conducted for individual and the total sum of items. When possible, standard, pooled effects with 99% confidence intervals using random effects models will be calculated.
Evidence on which guidelines have been evaluated and which are associated with improved completeness of reporting is important for various stakeholders, including editors who consider which guidelines to endorse in their journal editorial policies.
Reporting guidelines; Evaluation; Systematic review; Completeness of reporting
Open Medicine celebrates its fifth year of publishing high quality academic work. This article looks at the achievements of the past five years and the challenges in the future.
Failure to adhere to cardiac medications after acute myocardial infarction (AMI) is associated with increased mortality. Language barriers and preference for traditional medications may predispose certain ethnic groups at high risk for non-adherence. We compared prescribing and adherence to ACE-inhibitors (ACEI), beta-blockers (BB), and statins following AMI among elderly Chinese, South Asian, and Non-Asian patients.
Retrospective-cohort study of elderly AMI survivors (1995-2002) using administrative data from British Columbia. AMI cases and ethnicity were identified using validated ICD-9/10 coding and surname algorithms, respectively. Medication adherence was assessed using the 'proportion of days covered' (PDC) metric with a PDC ≥ 0.80 indicating optimal adherence. The independent effect of ethnicity on adherence was assessed using multivariable modeling, adjusting for socio-demographic and clinical characteristics.
There were 9926 elderly AMI survivors (258 Chinese, 511 South Asian patients). More Chinese patients were prescribed BBs (79.7% vs. 73.1%, p = 0.04) and more South Asian patients were prescribed statins (73.5% vs. 65.2%, p = 0.001). Both Chinese (Odds Ratio [OR] 0.53; 95%CI, 0.39-0.73; p < 0.0001) and South Asian (OR 0.78; 95%CI, 0.61-0.99; p = 0.04) patients were less adherent to ACEI compared to Non-Asian patients. South Asian patients were more adherent to BBs (OR 1.3; 95%CI, 1.04-1.62; p = 0.02). There was no difference in prescribing of ACEI, nor adherence to statins among the ethnicities.
Despite a higher likelihood of being prescribed evidence-based therapies following AMI, Chinese and South Asian patients were less likely to adhere to ACEI compared to their Non-Asian counterparts.
medication adherence; acute myocardial infarction; ethnicity
We compared the readmission rates and the pattern of readmission among patients discharged against medical advice (AMA) to control patients discharged with approval over a one-year follow-up period.
A retrospective matched-cohort study of 656 patients(328 were discharged AMA) who were followed for one year after their initial hospitalization at an urban university-affiliated teaching hospital in Vancouver, Canada that serves a population with high prevalence of addiction and psychiatric disorders. Multivariate conditional logistic regression was used to examine the independent association of discharge AMA on 14-day related diagnosis hospital readmission. We fit a multivariate conditional negative binomial regression model to examine the readmission frequency ratio between the AMA and non-AMA group.
AMA patients were more likely to be homeless (32.3% vs. 11%) and have co-morbid conditions such as psychiatric illnesses, injection drug use, HIV, hepatitis C and previous gastrointestinal bleeding. Patients discharged AMA were more likely to be readmitted: 25.6% vs. 3.4%, p<0.001 by day 14. The AMA group were more likely to be readmitted within 14 days with a related diagnosis than the non-AMA group (Adjusted Odds Ratio 12.0; 95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 3.7–38.9). Patients who left AMA were more likely to be readmitted multiple times at one year compared to the non-AMA group (adjusted frequency ratio 1.6; 95% CI: 1.3–2.0). There was also higher all-cause in-hospital mortality during the 12-month follow-up in the AMA group compared to non-AMA group (6.7% vs. 2.4%, p = 0.01).
Patients discharged AMA were more likely to be homeless and have multiple co-morbid conditions. At one year follow-up, the AMA group had higher readmission rates, were predisposed to multiple readmissions and had a higher in-hospital mortality. Interventions to reduce discharges AMA in high-risk groups need to be developed and tested.
Homelessness is prevalent among HIV-infected injection drug users (IDU) and may adversely affect access and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). There are limited descriptions of the effect of homelessness on adherence to ART in long-term cohorts of HIV-infected IDU. We used data from a community-recruited prospective cohort of HIV-infected IDU, including comprehensive ART dispensation records, in a setting where HIV care is free. We examined the relationship between the homelessness measured longitudinally, and the odds of ≥95% adherence to ART using generalized estimating equations logistic regression modeling adjusting for sociodemographics, drug use, and clinical variables. Between May 1996 and September 2008, 545 HIV-infected IDU were recruited and eligible for the present study. The median follow-up duration was 23.8 months (IQR 8.5–91.6 months) contributing 2,197 person-years of follow-up. At baseline, homeless participants were slightly younger (35.8 vs. 37.9 years, p = 0.01) and more likely to inject heroin at least daily (37.1% vs. 24.6%. p = 0.004) than participants who had housing. The multivariate model revealed that homelessness (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 0.66; 95% CI: 0.53–0.84) and frequent heroin use (AOR 0.40; 95% CI: 0.30–0.53) were significantly and negatively associated with ART adherence, whereas methadone maintenance was positively associated (AOR 2.33; 95% CI: 1.86–2.92). Sub-optimal ART adherence was associated with homelessness and daily injection heroin use among HIV-infected IDU. Given the survival benefit of ART, it is critical to develop and evaluate innovative strategies such as supportive housing and methadone maintenance to address these risk factors to improve adherence.
Homeless persons; HIV/AIDS; antiretroviral therapy; adherence
Unstable housing and homelessness is prevalent among injection drug users (IDU). We sought to examine whether accessing addiction treatment was associated with attaining stable housing in a prospective cohort of IDU in Vancouver, Canada.
We used data collected via the Vancouver Injection Drug User Study (VIDUS) between December 2005 and April 2010. Attaining stable housing was defined as two consecutive “stable housing” designations (i.e., living in an apartment or house) during the follow-up period. We assessed exposure to addiction treatment in the interview prior to the attainment of stable housing among participants who were homeless or living in single room occupancy (SRO) hotels at baseline. Bivariate and multivariate associations between the baseline and time-updated characteristics and attaining stable housing were examined using Cox proportional hazard regression models.
Of the 992 IDU eligible for this analysis, 495 (49.9%) reported being homeless, 497 (50.1%) resided in SRO hotels, and 380 (38.3%) were enrolled in addiction treatment at the baseline interview. Only 211 (21.3%) attained stable housing during the follow-up period and of this group, 69 (32.7%) had addiction treatment exposure prior to achieving stable housing. Addiction treatment was inversely associated with attaining stable housing in a multivariate model (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] = 0.71; 95% CI: 0.52–0.96). Being in a partnered relationship was positively associated with the primary outcome (AHR = 1.39; 95% CI: 1.02–1.88). Receipt of income assistance (AHR = 0.65; 95% CI: 0.44–0.96), daily crack use (AHR = 0.69; 95% CI: 0.51–0.93) and daily heroin use (AHR = 0.63; 95% CI: 0.43–0.92) were negatively associated with attaining stable housing.
Exposure to addiction treatment in our study was negatively associated with attaining stable housing and may have represented a marker of instability among this sample of IDU. Efforts to stably house this vulnerable group may be occurring in contexts outside of addiction treatment.