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Cadernos de Saúde Pública

Print version ISSN 0102-311X

Abstract

AGUIAR, Maria Magalhães  and  IRIART, Jorge Alberto Bernstein. Meanings and practices associated with health and illness among the homeless in Salvador, Bahia State, Brazil. Cad. Saúde Pública [online]. 2012, vol.28, n.1, pp. 115-124. ISSN 0102-311X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0102-311X2012000100012.

This article aimed to analyze the practices and meanings associated with health and illness among homeless people in Salvador, Bahia State, Brazil. A qualitative anthropological study was conducted with participant observation and semi-structured interviews with 13 subjects 30 to 66 years of age. The results point to extremely precarious living and health conditions among the homeless. The narratives emphasize frequent violence. The main health problems were substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, mental disorders, and dental, dermatological, and gastrointestinal problems. Among other meanings, health was associated with the capacity to cope with everyday difficulties. Meanwhile, illness was identified as a state of weakness that hindered the struggle for survival. Homeless people only turned to health services when their health problems were serious and urgent. In conclusion, the study showed the need for specific policies to improve living conditions and access to healthcare for this population.

Keywords : Homeless Persons; Population at Risk; Diagnosis of Health Situation; Anthropology.

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