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Medical News & Perspectives
February 5, 2020

Taking Medicine to the Streets to Care for Those Who Live There

JAMA. 2020;323(8):695-698. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.21515

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—Jim Withers, MD, and his colleagues make house calls for people who have no home.

Withers, medical director of Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net, coined the term street medicine more than a quarter-century ago to describe his team’s work.

Street medicine practitioners care for the unsheltered homeless, or “rough sleepers,” where they live—not only on the street but beneath overpasses and bridges, along riverbanks, and behind supermarkets. Research has linked living unsheltered to a greater risk of infectious and chronic diseases and a higher mortality rate.