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UH Study: Inadequate Housing Plays Role in Unnecessary Hospitalizations

July 28, 2017, 11:00 AM HST
* Updated July 28, 11:02 AM
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Tetine Sentell and Michelle Quensell. Courtesy photo.

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.

“We were interested in patient perspectives on the role of housing as contributing to their potentially preventable hospitalization,” said Sentell.

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

“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,” said Sentell. “Patients also mentioned the challenges of following diet plans when canned goods were the only available foods at the shelters and food banks.”

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

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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.

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