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Youth Homelessness and the Absence of HealthcareResearch Paper

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Youth Homelessness and the Absence of Healthcare

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that approximately 1.6 million youth fall homeless very year (HRSA, 2001). This figure includes runaway youth - those who absent themselves from their legal places of residence for at least one full night; throwaway youth -- who are thrown out of their legal places of residence for whatever reason, and are forced to spend at least one night on the streets; and street youth, who have lived on the streets for a considerable period and who have as a result, been able to establish street networks and families (HRSA, 2001). Street youth are the main focus of this discussion. They constitute a vulnerable population that faces multiple threats to health and overall well-being, with higher likelihoods of engaging in risky behaviors including violence, crime, drug use, and unprotected sex with multiple partners. Despite these inherent health risks, however, this population has been shown to face some serious barriers in accessing healthcare facilities, the most significant of which include negative attitudes from healthcare staff, difficulty maneuvering the healthcare system, lack of parental consent, and lack of health insurance (HRSA, 2001; Jorgensen, 2009).

The Problem

State and local governments have initiated numerous programs geared towards making healthcare services more accessible to homeless persons; however, most of these have been largely ineffective, and access to healthcare still remains a major problem for the homeless population (HHS, 2001). The author reckons that the primary reason for this is that programs have increasingly been designed to respond to the needs of the homeless population as a whole, with total disregard for the fact that homeless youth have different health needs from their adult counterparts (Coyne, 2004). There is need to develop healthcare delivery models that can efficiently address the social and health needs of homeless youth differently from those of homeless adults (Coyne, 2004). This will, however, require us to first identify what these specific needs are, and how they differ from those of the homeless adult population. Based on this background, the proposed study seeks to:

i) Assess how the health and social needs of homeless youth differ from those of homeless adults

ii) Guide policy makers on how intervention programs ought to be structured and designed to respond effectively to the specific health and social needs of homeless youth

Methodology

Study Frame: The primary aim of the proposed study is to assess how the health and medical needs of homeless youth differ from those of homeless adults, and to consequently determine how healthcare intervention programs ought to be designed to respond effectively to these needs. The study will make use of both qualitative and quantitative methods in evaluating the aforementioned objectives. Quantitative methods, particularly ANOVA tests, will be used for the first objective; and qualitative techniques, particularly document reviews and expert interviews, will be conducted to help in the formulation of suitable recommendations once the quantitative data has been analyzed. A questionnaire will be the chief instrument of data collection for objective 1; and all data collected thereof will be analyzed using the SPSS software package.

Participants: a total of 22 participants - eleven homeless adults and eleven homeless youth will be selected to take part in the study. The participants will be selected randomly, although measures will be taken to ensure both gender and racial balance. The points of data collection will be changed from time to minimize the risk of bias. Homeless youth will be categorized as those between fifteen and eighteen years of age; and homeless adults as those above eighteen years. To be eligible to take part in the study, participants will be required to have lived on the streets for not less than two consecutive years. Participation in the study will be purely voluntary; participants will neither be forced nor coerced into giving their responses, and will be allowed to withdraw their participation at any time, and leave unanswered any question that they feel infringes too much on their personal space. Confidentiality will be maintained at all stages of the study, and participants will be advised not to indicate their names or any information that could reveal their identity on any part of the questionnaire. The questionnaire will be structured in English, and since we may have no interpreters, only participants who understand the English language, and who are able to read will be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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