Residents on the Downtown Eastside are dying at over eight times the national average mostly due to treatable diseases, according to a study out of the University of British Columbia.
While the deaths aren’t linked to HIV or substance abuse, they are linked largely to liver dysfunction associated with hepatitis C and psychosis, especially in people 55 and older.
“We were somewhat surprised because most people thinking about the Downtown Eastside think about HIV/AIDS or the possibility of overdosing on opioids like heroin,” said study co-author Dr. William Honer in a release.
“Our system is not doing as well in getting treatments out there for psychosis and hepatitis C in this group, and it’s interesting that those two illnesses are causing risk for early mortality.”
Most of the study participants living with HIV were on antiretroviral treatments, but none of the 57 participants with hepatitis-C were receiving treatment of any kind. Around 33 per cent of the participants living with psychosis were receiving treatment.
“We need to be ready to detect and treat mental illness in an integrated way that really meets the patients where they’re at. We need to improve the detection and treatment of psychosis and hepatitis C in marginalized people across Canada,” said lead study author and MD/PHD candidate Andrea Jones.
The study followed 371 residents of the Downtown Eastside for about four years. Thirty-one people died over the course of the study, a rate of 8.29 per cent the national average, but for participants between 20 to 59 years old, it was 10 times the average.