Fifty three per cent of homeless have experienced a traumatic brain injury



    Findings show that early screening may help prevent homelessness

    TORONTO, Oct. 7 /CNW/ - A study published today in the Canadian Medical
Association Journal (CMAJ) shows more than half (53 per cent) of homeless
people in Toronto have experienced a traumatic brain injury and in 70 per cent
of these individuals, the injury occurred before the person's first experience
of homelessness.
    The article, "The Effect of Prior Traumatic Brain Injury on the Health of
Homeless Persons", by authors Dr. Stephen Hwang, St. Michael's Hospital, and
Dr. Angela Colantonio, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab), shows
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 Hwang.
"We should be asking our homeless patients about their history of brain
injuries and ensure that those with head injuries get the care and support
they need to attain stable housing."
    Colantonio adds, "The findings of this study are especially important
when you consider the conditions in which many homeless people live. Early
screening has the potential to lead to the development of supportive housing
that takes into consideration the various challenges people living with brain
injuries encounter on a daily basis. This includes difficulty remembering
scheduled appointments to problems using ordinary household items. Consider
also that many of these people may qualify for disability payments, instead of
welfare."
    The Ontario Alliance for Action on Brain Injury estimates that close to
half a million Ontarians currently live with an acquired brain injury - this
number is greater than the prevalence of breast cancer, HIV/AIDS and spinal
cord injury combined.
    Toronto has approximately 5,000 individuals who are homeless each night
and about 29,000 individuals who use shelters each year. Nine hundred and four
people from the homeless community chose to participate in the CMAJ study. Of
these 904, 58 per cent of the men and 42 per cent of the women were found to
have had a brain trauma.
    Traumatic brain injury most commonly results from falls, motor
vehicle-traffic crashes and assaults, and is the leading cause of permanent
disability in North America. It can contribute to cognitive impairment,
attention deficits, impulsivity and emotional instability.
    Hwang says, "This study is the first to show that the roots of
homelessness may sometimes lie in a serious head injury that occurred in the
person's past. We need to explore the possibility that providing better
rehabilitation and services for vulnerable people with head trauma may help
prevent them from becoming homeless in the future."

    St. Michael's Hospital is a large and vibrant, teaching and research
hospital in the heart of Toronto. Fully affiliated with the University of
Toronto, St. Michael's Hospital leads with innovation, and serves with
compassion. Renowned for providing exceptional patient care, St. Michael's
Hospital is a regional trauma centre and downtown Toronto's designated adult
trauma centre.

    Toronto Rehab celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2008. Canada's largest
teaching and research hospital specializing in adult rehabilitation, complex
continuing care and long-term care, Toronto Rehab has a legacy of excellence
that extends beyond a decade and is rooted in more than 350 years of
collective service by its founding hospitals. Each year, Toronto Rehab's
patient care, research and education programs make a difference in the lives
of more than 15,000 people living with disabling injury, illness and
conditions associated with aging.




For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Jenn Humphries, Senior Public Relations Specialist, St. Michael's Hospital,
tel: (416) 864-6094, cell: (289) 314-6644, humphriesj@smh.toronto.on.ca;
Angela Baker, Media Relations Specialist, Toronto Rehab, tel: (416) 597-3422
ext.3837, cell: (416) 320-0147, baker.angela@torontorehab.on.ca


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