The impact of drop-in centers on the health of street children in New Delhi, India: A cross-sectional study
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OBJECTIVES: (1) To determine whether street children who visit drop-in centers experience better physical and mental health, and engage in less substance use than street children who do not visit centers. (2) To determine whether the duration of attendance at a center has an impact on the above outcomes. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study with 69 street children from two drop-in centers in New Delhi, India (attenders) and a comparison group of 65 street children who did not visit drop-in centers (non-attenders). We used pretested questionnaires to assess their physical health, substance use status and mental health. RESULTS: Attenders experienced fewer ill health outcomes, engaged in less substance use, and had better mental health outcomes than non-attenders (p<0.01). For every month of attendance at a drop-in center, street children experienced 2.1% (95% CI 0% to 4.1%, p=0.05) fewer ill health outcomes per month and used 4.6% (95% CI 1.3% to 8%, p=0.01) fewer substances. Street children were also less likely to have been a current substance user than a never substance user for every additional month of attendance at a center (OR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.66-0.96, p=0.02). Duration of drop-in center attendance was not a significant factor in predicting mental health problems. CONCLUSION: Drop-in centers may improve the physical health of street children and reduce their substance abuse. Rigorous longitudinal studies are needed to better determine if drop-in centers impact the health and substance use status of street children in LMICs.
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