Discussion paper

Exploring primary health care needs, welfare requirements and service use of people experiencing homelessness within Melbourne’s CBD and inner suburbs

2 Nov 2012

National and international studies have regularly shown the complexity and severity of health and welfare needs of those affected by homelessness. These needs, without appropriate intervention and supports, can instigate or lengthen periods of homelessness. However, difficulties and inequality in access to, and provision of, health and welfare for this population have frequently been highlighted. This needs to be tackled if Australia is to decrease the number of individuals affected by homelessness as identified in the Australian Government’s White Paper “The Road Home”. The project, funded by the Australian Government within the 2009-13 National Homelessness Research Agenda, had the following research goals: 1. To explore the primary health care needs and associated welfare requirements of those experiencing homelessness. 2. To explore the beliefs, experiences and practices of local General Practitioners (GPs), Pharmacists, services that support individuals affected by homelessness and those experiencing homelessness in the access to, and provision of, health and welfare care. 3. To identify the education and support requirements of GPs, pharmacists and services that support individuals affected by homelessness. 4. To identify methods to increase and improve collaboration and referral pathways between GPs, Pharmacists and services that support individuals affected by homelessness. The research surveyed four main stakeholder groups in health and welfare regarding homelessness, access to and provision of primary health care (PHC) and welfare needs; GPs, Pharmacists, individuals affected by homelessness and homelessness support services. The results and discussion amalgamate the findings from all participant groups to gain a more comprehensive picture of the beliefs, experiences, practices and needs of all groups pertaining to homelessness and service provision. Participants included 53 individuals experiencing homelessness, 53 GPs, 12 pharmacists and 42 services that support those affected by homelessness.

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