Families' health-related social problems and missed referral opportunities


Objectives: The objectives of this study were to characterize (1) families' cumulative burden of health-related social problems regarding access to health care, housing, food security, income security, and intimate partner violence; (2) families' experiences regarding screening and referral for social problems; and (3) parental acceptability of screening and referral.

Methods: We surveyed 205 parents of children who were 0 to 6 years of age and attended 2 urban pediatric clinics for a well-child visit using a self-administered, computer-based questionnaire. The questionnaire included previously validated questions about health-related social problems and new questions about screening and referral in the past 12 months.

Results: A total of 205 (79%) of 260 eligible families participated. Eighty-two percent of families reported > or = 1 health-related social problem; 54% experienced problems in > or = 2 social domains. Families experienced similar types and frequencies of problems despite demographic differences between clinics. One third of families reported no screening in any domain in the previous 12 months. Of 205 families, 143 (70%) identified at least 1 need for a referral; 101 (49%) expressed > or = 1 unmet referral need. Of families who reported receiving referrals, 115 referrals were received by 79 families; of the referrals made, 63% (73 of 115) led to contact with the referral agency, and 82% (60 of 73) of the referral agencies were considered helpful. A computer-based system in a pediatrician's office for future screening and referral for health-related social problems was deemed acceptable by 92% of parents.

Conclusions: Urban children and families reported a significant burden of health-related social problems yet infrequent pediatric screening or referral for these problems. Of families who reported receiving referrals, a majority contacted the recommended agencies and found them helpful. This study also demonstrates the feasibility of using a computer-based questionnaire to identify health-related social problems in a routine outpatient clinic setting.

Fleegler EW, Lieu TA, Wise PH, Muret-Wagstaff S. Families' health-related social problems and missed referral opportunities. Pediatrics. 2007;119(6):e1332-1341. PMID: 17545363. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2006-1505.

Publication Year: 
Resource Type: 
Peer Reviewed Research
Study Design: 
Other Study Design
Social Determinant of Health: 
Health Care Access
Housing Quality
Housing Stability
Public Benefits
Children and Youth
Screening Research: