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A community partnership to evaluate the feasibility of addressing food insecurity among adult patients in an urban healthcare system

K. Scher, A. Sohaki, A. Tang, A. Plum, M. Taylor, C. Joseph
Pilot Feasibility Stud

Background: Food insecurity (FI) is a significant public health problem. Possible sequelae of prolonged food insecurity include kidney disease, obesity, and diabetes. Our objective was to assess the feasibility of a partnership between Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) and Gleaners Community Foodbank of Southeastern Michigan to implement and evaluate a food supplementation intervention initiated in a hospital outpatient clinic setting. Methods: We established a protocol for using the Hunger Vital Signs to screen HFHS internal medicine patients for food insecurity and established the data sharing infrastructure and agreements necessary for an HFHS-Gleaners partnership that would allow home delivery of food to consenting patients. We evaluated the food supplementation program using a quasi-experimental design and constructing a historical comparison group using the electronic medical record. Patients identified as food insecure through screening were enrolled in the program and received food supplementation twice per month for a total of 12 months, mostly by home delivery. The feasibility outcomes included successful clinic-based screening and enrollment and successful food delivery to consenting patients. Our evaluation compared healthcare utilization between the intervention and historical comparison group during a 12-month observation period using a difference-in-differences (DID) analysis. Results: Of 1691 patients screened, 353 patients (20.9%) met the criteria for FI, of which 340/353 (96.3%) consented, and 256/340 (75.3%) were matched and had data sufficient for analysis. Food deliveries were successfully made to 89.9% of participant households. At follow-up, the intervention group showed greater reductions in emergency department visits than the comparison group, -41.5% and -25.3% reduction, respectively. Similar results were observed for hospitalizations, -55.9% and -17.6% reduction for intervention and control groups, respectively. DID regression analysis also showed lower trends in ED visits and hospitalizations for the intervention group compared to the comparison group. Conclusions: Results suggest that community-health system partnerships to address patient-reported food insecurity are feasible and potentially could reduce healthcare utilization in these patients. A larger, randomized trial may be the next step in fully evaluating this intervention, perhaps with more outcomes (e.g., medication adherence), and additional covariates (e.g., housing insecurity and financial strain).

Scher K, Sohaki A, Tang A, Plum A, Taylor M, Joseph C. A community partnership to evaluate the feasibility of addressing food insecurity among adult patients in an urban healthcare system. Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2022;8(1):59. Published 2022 Mar 9. doi:10.1186/s40814-022-01013-3 PMID: 35264239

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Publication year
Resource type
Peer Reviewed Research
Social Needs/ SDH
Patient Experience of Care
Provider Experience of Care
Screening research
Social Determinant of Health
Study design
Pre-post with Comparison Group