"Everyone's struggling right now": Impact of COVID-19 on addressing food insecurity in rural primary care
BACKGROUND: Primary care practices can address food insecurity (FI) through routine screening, practice-based food programmes, and referrals to community resources. The COVID-19 pandemic had disproportionate impacts on health outcomes for food-insecure households.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on FI screening and interventions in rural primary care practices in northern New England.
METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with thirteen providers and staff regarding changes to FI screening and interventions, community resources and partnerships, and patient food needs during the pandemic. Themes and exemplar quotations were identified through iterative discussion.
RESULTS: Practices reported more frequent informal discussions with patients about FI during the pandemic. Despite limitations in site operations, practices created programmes to distribute food at practice locations or through food deliveries. The adoption of telemedicine had variable impacts on FI screening, creating challenges for some while facilitating screening outside of scheduled visits for others. Practices reported increased food availability due to new or expanded community programmes, but lack of transportation and delivery availability were challenges. New and stronger connections formed between practices and community partners. Increased awareness of FI among both patients and practice staff resulted in decreased stigma.
CONCLUSION: Screening for and addressing FI was a priority for rural primary care practices during the pandemic. The implementation of practice-based FI interventions was supported by stronger practice-community connections and a decrease in stigma. The experiences of providers and staff during the pandemic provide insight into best practices for engaging primary care practices in reducing FI.
Suresh A, Jordanova KE, Boardman MB, et al. "Everyone's struggling right now": impact of covid-19 on addressing food insecurity in rural primary care. Fam Pract. 2023. DOI:10.1093/fampra/cmad105. PMID: 37962422