A Primary Care Approach to Treating Women Without Homes

Roseanna H. Means, MD, MSc

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Medical practitioners are encountering more women who are presently or formerly homeless. Homelessness negatively affects health and health outcomes. Women without homes experience repeated violence and trauma. In this review, the definition and scope of homelessness as it impacts women is discussed, from the etiology of women's homelessness to a description of their lifestyle. A paradigm of a primary care approach to understanding and treating women without homes is presented, including strategies for history taking, physical exams, and follow-up care that help build trust and improve compliance.

Women constitute the fastest growing subgroup of the millions of Americans who are homeless.[1,2,3,4] Homelessness is a context for persistent trauma, enhanced risk of disease exposure, and chronic barriers to care. Ignorance of the context of the homeless woman's lifestyle results in improper, incomplete, and more costly medical care of this population. It is vital, therefore, to develop a paradigm for the approach to the care of women without homes.


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