Establishing need and population priorities to improve the health of homeless and vulnerably housed women, youth, and men: A Delphi consensus study [2020]

Homelessness is one of the most disabling and precarious living conditions. The objective of this Delphi consensus study was to identify priority needs and at-risk population subgroups among homeless and vulnerably housed people to guide the development of a more responsive and person-centred clinical practice guideline.

We used a literature review and expert working group to produce an initial list of needs and at-risk subgroups of homeless and vulnerably housed populations. We then followed a modified Delphi consensus method, asking expert health professionals, using electronic surveys, and persons with lived experience of homelessness, using oral surveys, to prioritize needs and at-risk sub-populations across Canada. Criteria for ranking included potential for impact, extent of inequities and burden of illness. We set ratings of ≥ 60% to determine consensus over three rounds of surveys.

Eighty four health professionals and 76 persons with lived experience of homelessness participated from across Canada, achieving an overall 73% response rate. The participants identified priority needs including mental health and addiction care, facilitating access to permanent housing, facilitating access to income support and case management/care coordination. Participants also ranked specific homeless sub-populations in need of additional research including: Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit); youth, women and families; people with acquired brain injury, intellectual or physical disabilities; and refugees and other migrants.

The inclusion of the perspectives of both expert health professionals and people with lived experience of homelessness provided validity in identifying real-world needs to guide systematic reviews in four key areas according to priority needs, as well as launch a number of working groups to explore how to adapt interventions for specific at-risk populations, to create evidence-based guidelines.

Esther S. Shoemaker, Claire E. Kendall, Christine Mathew, Sarah Crispo, Vivian Welch, Anne Andermann, Sebastian Mott, Christine Lalonde, Gary Bloch, Alain Mayhew, Tim Aubry, Peter Tugwell, Vicky Stergiopoulos, Kevin Pottie
PLOS ONE, April 16, 2020