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Early screening may prevent homelessness: study

A study indicates more than half of Toronto’s homeless population have experienced a traumatic brain injury, and in 70 per cent of these cases the injury occurred before the person became homeless.

Toronto, October 9, 2008

Homeless manA study indicates more than half of Toronto’s homeless population have experienced a traumatic brain injury, and in 70 per cent of these cases the injury occurred before the person became homeless. The research suggests that homeless people with a history of brain injury are more likely to suffer from poorer mental and physical health than homeless people who have not experienced a brain injury.

“While not everyone who has had a traumatic brain injury will go on to experience homelessness, this study shows that a disproportionately large number of homeless people have suffered from trauma to the brain,” says Dr. Stephen Hwang, a research scientist with the Centre for Research on Inner City Health, St. Michael's Hospital. “We should be asking our homeless patients about their history of brain injuries and ensuring that those with head injuries get the care and support they need to attain stable housing.”

The Ontario Alliance for Action on Brain Injury estimates that close to half a million Ontarians currently live with an acquired brain injury – a number higher than the prevalence of breast cancer, HIV/AIDS and spinal cord injury combined.

“The Effect of Prior Traumatic Brain Injury on the Health of Homeless Persons”, written by Dr. Hwang and Dr. Angela Colantonio of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, appears in the current edition of Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

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