Complementary medicine approaches among homeless individuals in Switzerland: Desirable? Relevant? A mixed-method descriptive study
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Center for Primary Care and Public Health, Unisanté, Switzerland
Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland
Sleep-in, Lausanne, Switzerland
Center for primary care and public health, Unisanté, Switzerland
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A771
Background and Objectives: Despite their important health needs, homeless individuals (HomI) face barriers to healthcare, including lack of trust due to negative experiences. Whereas emerging Findings from the US suggest that complementary medicine (CM) may help engage this population into the healthcare system, there is a dearth of research exploring this thematic in Europe. This study aimed to explore CM interests and needs among HomI in Switzerland. Methods: Participants (N= 123) were HomI in French-speaking Switzerland who completed a questionnaire assessing interests in 17 CM approaches. A subset of participants (n= 19) and 13 professionals (healthcare and social workers, shelter watchers) participated in semi-structured interviews exploring their perceptions of CM. Descriptive statistics and conventional content analysis were used to analyze quantitative and qualitative data. Results: The top 5 most endorsed approaches included osteopathy, (61.5% interested), therapeutic massage (59.2%), nutritional supplements (57.1%) music therapy (50.8%) and acupuncture (49.1%). Three themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: 1) CM meets HomI’ interests and might help address several of their health needs; 2) Importance to follow specific rules to engage HomI in CM interventions; 3) Setting priorities (CM interventions vs. more basic needs). According to both professionals and HomI, CM interventions, such as music therapy, osteopathy or animal therapy might lead to improvements in self-confidence, well-being, social isolation and chronic pain. All participants recommended offering CM interventions in existing structures and involving professionals to promote them. Finally, a few participants questioned the relevance to develop a CM offer, highlighting more urgent social needs to be fulfilled first. Conclusions: Main findings suggest that developing CM approaches, such as osteopathy or music therapy might meet HomI interests and health needs. Using a community-based participatory paradigm would ensure following the recommendations to develop the offer within existing structures and involve professionals to promote the intervention.  
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