Inadequate Housing in Hawaii Plays a Large Role in Unnecessary Hospitalizations

Homelessness and inadequate housing are major causes of unnecessary hospitalizations, according to a study by University of Hawai‘i researchers.

The finding is from an ongoing project to understand and reduce potentially preventable hospitalizations for diabetes and heart disease in Hawaiʻi under Principal Investigator Tetine Sentell, an associate professor in the UH Office of Public Health Studies. Said Sentell, “We were interested in patient perspectives on the role of housing as contributing to their potentially preventable hospitalization.”

Tetine Sentell and Michelle Quensell

Reported lead author of the study, Michelle Quensell, a UH public health graduate, “We talked to 90 patients, and almost 25% reported a housing-related issue as a major factor in hospitalization. About half of these patients were homeless, noting the high cost of housing in Hawai‘i.”

Added Sentell, “Patients said it was hard to care for their diabetes or heart disease when they were living without amenities such as refrigeration, running water, a stove or a safe place to store medications. Patients also mentioned the challenges of following diet plans when canned goods were the only available foods at the shelters and food banks.”

Several major health providers in Hawaiʻi have recently created innovative new programs to address social determinants, including housing, within the health-care setting to improve health-care quality and reduce health-care costs. This research strongly supports these efforts.

Quensell is a 2015 graduate of the Health Policy and Management programs within Public Health. Other investigators included Kathryn Braun from Public Health; Deborah Taira at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, University of Hawai’i at Hilo; and Todd Seto at the Queen’s Medical Center.

For more information, visit: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/publichealth/

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