Raising awareness of correlations between homelessness and chronic medical conditions while supporting the community, University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System (UI Health) in Chicago is advancing a program called Better Health Through Housing in a local outreach effort.
UI Health said in a release the facility will allot $250,000 toward providing housing, supplementing an equivalent donation made in 2015 for the same purpose that enabled 26 patients to find shelter.
Explaining that homeless individuals tend to demonstrate greater incidence of certain injuries and diseases, such as brain trauma, asthma, COPD, certain cancers, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, hospital officials reported that many homeless individuals make multiple ER visits annually.
“We are an urban health system engaged in tackling complex social issues that affect health,” Dr. Robert Barish, UI Health’s vice chancellor for health affairs, said in the release. “Lack of housing (makes) getting and staying healthy extremely difficult, and this is why we have decided to reinvest in this program.”
The program is designed to lower health care costs as well as increasing public understanding in the long run.
Dr. Terry Vanden Hoek, UI Health's head of emergency medicine, said in the release that the hospital can serve as an intersection between health care and the underserved community; while preventive emergency medicine director Steve Brown pointed out that accurate determination of a patient’s individual housing needs is still in development.
“We are still amazed at how homelessness can be invisible in health care,” Brown said in the release.