Bruyère’s Kevin Pottie driving the development of homeless health guidelines
In November, the Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) and the Homeless Health Evidence Team at Bruyère hosted a Homeless Health Summit in Toronto. Researchers, public health experts, primary care practitioners, medical students, residents, and people with lived experience of homelessness gathered from across Canada to discuss how evidence should influence the way care is delivered to homeless across the country.
“Everything discussed at this summit is based on evidence, whether that means evidence gathered through research, or through lived experience,” explained Dr. Kevin Pottie, a clinician and investigator at Bruyère, and one of the lead organizers for the event. “We want evidence to be the foundation for the homeless health guidelines we’ll be proposing in a couple of months.”
The summit was made up of expert panels and speeches that explored the different challenges facing homeless health in Canada.
Panelists Terry Hannigan and Dawnmarie Harriott, both formerly homeless, provided valuable insight based on their lived experiences. They gave pointers on how physicians can foster nurturing relationships with patients without a home—highlighting the importance of maintaining eye contact and engaging in active listening. They also advised physicians to monitor the patient’s mental health—especially since poor mental health can easily go undetected.
Students Victoire Kpadé, Jean Wang, and Syeda Shanza Hashmi discussed the role of young people in homeless health care. Victoire, a first-year medical student at McGill University, called on universities to give students more opportunities to engage with disadvantaged populations and individuals with lived homeless experience. Jean pointed out stereotypes that are typically associated with homeless youth, and how this group should be considered separately as they have their own unique paths and challenges. Syeda highlighted the power of young people to invoke change through advocacy within their academic departments and communities.
The summit represents a significant step in the development of homeless health guidelines. “It’s going to take more than just doctors to make this work,” said Kevin. “We have a solution. Now we need everyone on board to put it in action.”