Innovations in Providing Diabetes Care for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness: An Environmental Scan

David J T Campbell, Rachel B Campbell, Gillian L Booth, Stephen W Hwang, Kerry A McBrien
Canadian Journal of Diabetes 2020 February 14

OBJECTIVES: For a variety of reasons, homelessness creates major challenges for the management of diabetes, resulting in excess morbidity and mortality in this population. The objective of this study was to document innovations in providing diabetes care for individuals experiencing homelessness.

METHODS: Using directed snowball sampling, we recruited a sample of service providers (family physicians, nurses, social workers, endocrinologists, diabetes educators, shelter workers) in 5 Canadian cities (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa). Data were collected using detailed, open-ended interviews. Transcripts and field notes were analyzed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: We interviewed 96 program managers and providers representing 38 organizations. Although many of the same challenges were faced by care providers in different jurisdictions, there was little communication or sharing of experiences across providers and organizations. However, we identified 5 unique and innovative approaches to providing diabetes care to individuals experiencing homelessness. These include: 1) provision of in-shelter care, 2) peer outreach/support workers, 3) diabetes specialty outreach clinics, 4) diabetes group care specific for this population and 5) community-based pharmacy interventions.

CONCLUSIONS: Providers and organizations in different cities face similar challenges in providing diabetes care to individuals who are experiencing homelessness, yet they tend to address these difficulties in isolation. Despite this, numerous organizations have created innovative solutions to improve diabetes care. Sharing experiences across organizations and jurisdictions can facilitate development and implementation of successful program models.

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