Towards Equitable Health Care Access: Community Participatory Research Exploring Unmet Health Care Needs of Homeless Individuals

Melba Sheila D'Souza, Noeman Ahmad Mirza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Community and health services often overlook health care needs of persons experiencing homelessness, which leads to deterioration in health and increased utilization of emergency services. Since homeless people are underrepresented in health service research, little is known about their unmet health care needs, particularly in smaller cities where resources are limited. This community-based participatory research explored the experiences of small-city homeless service users (HSUs) with unmet health care needs and community service providers (CSPs) who work with them to determine barriers to health care access affecting them. Structured interviews were conducted with 65 HSUs and 15 CSPs in interior British Columbia, Canada. These interviews were audio-recorded, and the retrieved data were analyzed thematically. The three themes uncovered included: a lack of access to health care and risk of stigma, a lack of trust and fear of discrimination, and a need for community navigation and social support. The findings indicate that HSUs do not receive equitable care and face challenges in accessing appropriate and timely foot care, which contributes to increased foot-related emergency visits, loss of trust in the health care system, and disabilities due to worsening foot conditions. Various social determinants of health also impact HSUs, such as low socioeconomic status, lack of housing, decreased social support, unhealthy behaviors, and inequitable access to health services. By collaborating with HSUs, community and health services need to develop innovative outreach programs that provide better community resources as the first step toward equitable access to health care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-463
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal of Nursing Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • access
  • community
  • health services
  • homeless
  • primary care
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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