ACP Recommends Ways to Better Meet the Health Care and Social Needs of Unhoused Populations

Monday, February 26, 2024

WASHINGTON February 26, 2024 –Policy action is needed to better meet the unique health challenges of persons experiencing homelessness and housing instability, says the American College of Physicians (ACP) in a new policy paper published today in the Annals of Internal MedicineMeeting the Health and Social Needs of America’s Unhoused and Housing-Unstable Populations: A Position Paper from the American College of Physicians, underscores the need to address the underlying drivers of homelessness and makes recommendations about better meeting the health care needs of unhoused populations.

“Homelessness and housing instability are yet another nonmedical factor that deeply impacts the health of an individual,” said Omar T. Atiq, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “Our efforts to help improve the health of unhoused persons has to include efforts that would help them gain stable housing.”

In the new paper, ACP says that stable housing is essential to an individual’s well-being and goes on to say that policy efforts must prioritize safe and affordable housing for all, and policymakers must adequately fund programs that seek to meet the health care and shelter needs of unhoused individuals. ACP recommends that efforts to address homelessness should be part of a sufficiently funded national strategy and accompanied by additional research into the causes of homelessness and the needs of unhoused populations.

The paper also makes recommendations about providing health care services to unhoused populations and urges Medicare and Medicaid to implement demonstration projects that provide housing supports and targeted medical services to those who are unhoused or are at risk of becoming unhoused. ACP also says that physicians and other health professionals should be knowledgeable about screening patients for homelessness and treating unhoused patients, and that this should be incorporated into all levels of medical education. The paper asserts that laws and regulations should decriminalize an individual undertaking life-sustaining activities, like camping, scavenging, or sleeping, in public. Finally, the report recommends research into approaches to provide accessible and appropriate health care services to unhoused populations, and that public and private payers should pay for providing services to those individuals.

“The housing crisis in our country is growing in magnitude and has substantial implications for both individual and public health,” concluded Dr. Atiq. “We need to address the structural factors that cause housing instability, while at the same time ensuring that we the immediate needs of unhoused people for shelter, insurance coverage, and medical care.”


About the American College of Physicians 
American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 161,000 internal medicine physicians, related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter,Instagram, and Facebook

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